Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall is excited about the prospect of returning international stars as his side gear up for a local clash with Harlequins at Showdown 3.
Saracens enter the fixture top of the Gallagher Premiership and six points clear of second-place Sale Sharks but have lost two of their last three fixtures including defeat to reigning champions Leicester Tigers.
Quins, meanwhile, have endured a disappointing campaign so far and languish in eighth position with just one win in their last four Premiership encounters.
McCall’s side will be strengthened as he welcomes back 11 players from Six Nations duty, but he was keen to praise the efforts of the rest of the squad who have maintained his side’s table-topping position in their absence.
He said: “It’s the first time our groups have been together for ten weeks, we’ve had a lot of internationals away and it’s great to have the whole group back together again.
“Throughout the Six Nations a lot of younger lads stepped up to show us that they’re capable of playing at this level and some players who don’t normally lead led very well.
“It’s been a real squad effort from our group this year, we’ve used 48 players in 16 Prem matches plus the four European matches.
“I’ve delved in deep to our academy so 48 players kind of speaks for itself that it’s a squad effort.
“We also had a reasonably large injury toll during the last couple of months but a lot of them are coming back it’s a healthy position for us to be in.”
Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Marco Riccioni return from English and Italian international duty to make up a stellar front-three with Maro Itoje partnering Hugh Tizard in the second row.
Elsewhere, Scot Andy Christie returns at blindside flanker while skipper Owen Farrell comes back into the side at fly-half.
Finally, Wales’ Nick Tompkins returns in the midfield to partner Alex Lozowski with Max Malins slotting back onto the right wing.
Saturday’s encounter will be the third edition of the Showdown spectacle with the home side looking to add to their nail-biting 27-23 victory against Bristol Bears in last year’s edition.
“It’s an incredible stadium and a really good experience that we’re looking forward to,” McCall said.
“Hats off to everyone at the club who worked tirelessly to make that happen and to have well over 50,000 people going there is great and the fact that both teams are gonna have a lot of their star players playing in that game is really important as well.”
With victory, Saracens would take another important step towards securing their place in the final four but, despite that prospect and their earlier win in the season against Harlequins, McCall is taking nothing for granted.
He added: “It’s probably unwise to look back at games six months ago to be honest, both teams have evolved since them, but we’ve had some great games against Quins over the years.
“I’m sure we’ll get another one on Saturday.”
Find the rest of our Showdown coverage here.