Mark McCall expects a tough test for Saracens away to Newcastle
Saracens boss Mark McCall has predicted a real test for the Aviva Premiership champions when they tackle Newcastle at Kingston Park on Sunday.
The form guide and recent Premiership history, though, suggests that Saracens will extend an unbeaten record in all competitions this season.
McCall's men have triumphed on their last five visits to the north east, while Newcastle can reflect on just one victory in 14 Premiership games and are already 20 points behind their opponents this weekend.
"We are well aware of the task that faces us on Sunday afternoon," McCall said.
"The Falcons ran us very close in our last meeting at Kingston Park last season, and we are expecting another tough game this weekend.
"We are on a good a run, but that will mean very little if we don't turn up on Sunday with the right approach.
"Dean Richards has put together a very strong squad at Newcastle, who are traditionally very strong at home. It will be a real test for us."
England international hooker Jamie George, fresh from agreeing a new long-term contract with Saracens, will captain the team, while flanker flanker Will Fraser returns to action and there is a full debut for number eight Samuela Vunisa. Behind the scrum, Ben Spencer, Nick Tompkins and Mike Ellery all start.
Reflecting on his new deal, George said: "I have loved every second I've spent at the club over these last six seasons, so I am delighted to have extended my stay.
"I really buy into what we are doing at the club. Saracens have looked after me so well, and I am playing alongside my best mates, which means a huge amount to me.
"It's such a special environment, and if you couple that with the brilliant coaching staff that we have, you constantly feel like you are developing as a player and as a person every single day."
Newcastle boss Richards has made two changes from the side that gained a 15-15 draw against Sale last weekend - Falcons' first Premiership points of the season. Wing Belisario Agulla makes his league debut, replacing Giamba Venditti, and there is an opportunity at fly-half for Tom Catterick instead of an injured Mike Delany.
Falcons' ex-Saracens centre Adam Powell, who lines up against his former club on Sunday, said: "Saracens have a team full of internationals and they are very good, but there are areas we can pick on. They are class, and we have to lift our game.
"You look at a team like Saracens, who obviously had a lot of guys away at the World Cup, but everyone who was away had been at the club for a long time, so it was just a case of fitting back into the system.
"For us, we had guys who had never been here before, so it was a case of learning a whole new system, meeting new people and getting settled into the area. Those are things some people take for granted, but they aren't easy and take time.
"Now though, we are seeing improvements. We've had a much-improved run of performances recently, and that is something we are definitely looking to build on this weekend."