TEAM NEWS | Bristol Bears v Saracens Men (GPR – Rd 9)
Ivan van Zyl insists the squad are fully focused on continuing their winning start to the season as they head to Ashton Gate to take on Bristol Bears on Saturday evening.
The South African scrum-half, who has named the Lucozade Player of the Month for October has been in scintillating form of late and will be looking to continue that as his side make the journey to the West Country looking to make it eight wins from eight in the Gallagher Premiership.
The Men in Black are without a large contingent who are away on international duty during the Autumn Nations Series, so Director of Rugby Mark McCall has made five changes from the side that ground out a crucial win over Sale Sharks last Sunday.
Robin Hislop will make his second debut for the club at loosehead after re-joining the club from Wasps last week, and he will be joined by Theo Dan and Marco Riccioni in the front-row.
Callum Hunter-Hill has Hugh Tizard for company in the second-row after the latter returned from England duty during the week, with the same for Andy Christie who is back from Scotland to join captain Ben Earl and Jackson Wray in the back-row.
Van Zyl has Alex Goode alongside him at fly-half after his Player of the Match display on his record-breaking 339th appearance last week, and Alex Lozowski moves to inside centre with Elliot Daly outside him in the midfield.
Sean Maitland makes his first start of the season on the left wing, with Alex Lewington on the right, and Max Malins who is also back from England at full-back.
On the bench there is another chance for Andrew Kitchener to make his mark, and scrum-half Gareth Simpson could make his debut after joining earlier this week on a two-week loan as cover for the injured Aled Davies as well as Ruben de Haas who is on international duty.
Van Zyl says Saturday’s match is another chance for the group to improve as they look to keep up their unbeaten start to the campaign.
“I think we are pretty set on what we want to achieve as a club, and everyone is driven for that. For us, it is about chasing those standards and chasing excellence to be consistent.
It is all about improving every game and taking a step. If we keep on improving, we will be where we want to be.”
Saracens Men team to play Bristol Bears:
1 Robin Hislop
2 Theo Dan
3 Marco Riccioni
4 Callum Hunter-Hill
5 Hugh Tizard
6 Andy Christie
7 Ben Earl (c)
8 Jackson Wray
9 Ivan van Zyl
10 Alex Goode
11 Sean Maitland
12 Alex Lozowski
13 Elliot Daly
14 Alex Lewington
15 Max Malins
16 Ethan Lewis
17 James Flynn
18 Alec Clarey
19 Andrew Kitchener
20 Toby Knight
21 Gareth Simpson
22 Josh Hallett
23 Tom Howe