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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Star-spangled Sarries primed to make their mark on Newcastle

Return of Lions personnel adds vital power

Barnstorming Billy Vunipola is back for Saracens
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Leicester v Gloucester
BT Sport 2, 3pm Saturday
Newcastle v Saracens
BT Sport 2, 10pm Saturday

Premiership rugby lands in Philadelphia and Saracens are looking to make an impact stateside as they take on Newcastle.

A whole pride of Sarries' British & Irish Lions start as Mako Vunipola, Owen Farrell and Liam Williams, who all came off the bench last week join Maro Itoje in the line-up along with Jamie George, making his first appearance of the season.

And Billy Vunipola, named in the initial Lions squad but forced out through injury, makes his long-awaited return in a match Sarries will really look to make their mark in.

Saracens played in the first Premiership match staged on US soil in March 2016, beating London Irish 26-16, and they will be fired up by their defeat to Bath last week, when what looked set to be a hard-won comeback victory was scuppered by a late try double.

Newcastle are flying high with two defeats from two, but their victory at Sale last week owed a lot to the Sharks failing to nail chances, and while the Falcons' driving line-out brought them success at the AJ Bell Stadium, this Sarries pack are several steps up.

Two-tie European champions Saracens should win this but a 17-point handicap looks high given the midweek distractions the team will have faced, and a win by 11 to 20 points looks to offer better value.

Earlier in the day Leicester will aim to seal their first win of the season at home to Gloucester.

The Tigers have been second-best in defeats to Bath and Northampton and appear to lack their usual physicality and go-forward.

Gloucester were disappointing in defeat at Harlequins last week having opened with a victory over champions Exeter and it's hard to know yet quite what to expect from them. But given the Tigers' travails, taking the visitors with a double-figure start looks the safest ploy.

Saracens to win by 11 to 20 points
2pts 13-5 Ladbrokes
Gloucester +12
1pt 10-11 general

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Saracens played in the first Premiership match staged on US soil in March 2016, beating London Irish 26-16
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