Worcester Warriors centre Andy Symons handed start for daunting Saracens test

Worcester News: SKIPPER: Chris Pennell leads Warriors in the absence of Jonathan Thomas. SKIPPER: Chris Pennell leads Warriors in the absence of Jonathan Thomas.

ANDY Symons has been handed his first Aviva Premiership start in tomorrow’s clash with Saracens at Sixways (3pm).

The centre made his Warriors debut in last month's LV= Cup victory over Cardiff Blues and scored his first try for the club against Leicester Tigers a week later.

Symons, who joined the club from new Zealand side Tasman Makos in November, is one of two changes from the side which travelled to Kingsholm last Sunday as Leonardo Senatore comes in for the injured Jonathan Thomas at number eight.

Full-back Chris Pennell, who signed a new contract earlier this month, will captain the side against the league-leaders.

Back-rower Semisi Taulava is recalled to the bench and could make his first appearance since October's clash with Newcastle.

Director of Rugby Dean Ryan said: "We're not fazed by the whole thing. We recognise that Saracens are a good side and we recognise they've got some good players.

"But we also recognise that we've become a pretty strong group. Each time we've got something to teach ourselves and we are competitive every week.

"You learn a lot about people when you find yourself in these situations and I think we've conducted ourselves with a huge amount of credit.

"I'm optimistic every time this group represent themselves in the right way. They've done it against Northampton, they've done it against Bath and they've done it twice against Biarritz. That makes me optimistic ahead of the New Year.”

Former Worcester centre Tim Streather, who was released as a youngster by the Sixways club, starts in midfield as part of a star-studded Sarries team.

Mako Vunipola returns to the starting XV and is joined in the pack by Schalk Brits and Matt Stevens, while Billy Vunipola is back at number eight.

In the backs, in-form scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth continues at number nine and is partnered by Charlie Hodgson in the halves.

Warriors players will be wearing their charity shirt for their fourth annual charity match as they continue to raise money for Acorns Children's Hospice.

Warriors: Pennell; Stephenson, Grove, Symons, Drauniniu; Mieres, Su'a; Fainga'anuku, Brooker, O'Donnell, Percival, Galarza, de Carpentier, Betty, Senatore. Replacements: Seymour, Becasseau, Andress, Jones, Taulava, Hodgson, Warwick, Fatiaki.

Saracens: Goode; Wilson, Streather, Wyles, Strettle; Hodgson, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Brits, Stevens, Kruis, Hargreaves, Wray, Brown, B Vunipola. Replacements: George, Barrington, Du Plessis, Botha, Melck, Spencer, Bosch, Barritt.

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