Alex Lewington hopes he can make a vital contribution off the bench if he’s called upon in Saracens’ European Rugby Champions Cup clash with Lyon on Saturday.

The former London Irish winger will be among the replacements as Mark McCall makes five changes for his side’s home clash at Allianz Park, with Liam Williams starting on the wing in place of David Strettle.

Yet England Saxons international Lewington believes his rough and tumble experience of the European Challenge Cup while playing at Irish will land him in good stead against Top 14 outfit Lyon.

“I used to really enjoy the Challenge Cup because most of the time, at Irish, we were in a relegation battle, so Premiership weeks were very stressful but when Europe came around, it felt like a bit of a weight off your shoulders and it was a chance to express yourself,” he told

“I’ve played in France, Italy, Georgia and Portugal, which is one of the best things about it as a young player coming through and getting to play in hostile places like that is an amazing experience.

“In terms of the week and going into a Champions Cup match, it’s a step up.

“You’re going up against the best teams in Europe and there’s a lot of pride behind all these teams, which makes it exciting.

“I can’t wait to be involved in games against big teams who are the face of rugby in their countries.”

Saracens made the perfect start to their European adventure with a 13-3 away win at Glasgow Warriors last weekend as Michael Rhodes scored the only try of the match.

Head coach Mark McCall has stuck to his guns ahead of Lyon’s visit to London, with Ben Spencer starting at nine, Richard Barrington and Jackson Wray come in for the injured Billy and Mako Vunipola, while Nick Tompkins replaces the suspended Alex Lozowski.

There are four changes on the bench though with Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Ben Earl, Schalk Burger and Marcelo Bosch all coming in.

Excited by the challenge of taking on Lyon side for the first time in his career, Lewington expects Les Loups to be tricky customers to handle.

“It’s a bit of an unknown challenge,” he said.

“You can do your analysis and stuff but typically, the French are quite unpredictable anyway and we’ve seen that in Lyon.

“They have very different styles in different games, which is quite exciting.

“They’re a big, physical team who have ball-carriers everywhere, which I think most French teams do, so that’s a challenge in itself. We need to be physical and stop that.”