SARACENS director of rugby Mark McCall insists his side will be taking nothing for granted as they begin their quest for an immediate return to English rugby’s top tier.

McCall’s men make the long trip west to Cornish Pirates on Saturday for their first competitive match since a 17-17 draw against Bath on October 4.

Sarries begin as overwhelming favourites ahead of the 10-game season, which concludes with a two-legged play-off.

But having received a couple of wake-up calls in the form of pre-season defeats against Ealing Trailfinders, McCall knows his side will not be able to afford complacency in their promotion bid.

"We know we're there to be shot at, perhaps doubly so, and we need to be ready," he said.

“We played our last meaningful match back in October so it has been a while since then and while we have played five friendly matches, everyone has been waiting for the Championship to start. 

“The friendlies have been a big learning curve for us in terms of what the Championship is like and how well-coached the teams are and how proud they are. We have lost two of the five games and have experienced to a large degree what it is like.”

Saracens are without their array of England stars on the opening weekend but McCall expects the likes of Andy Farrell, Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers to feature at least four times in the second tier this season.

The teamsheet for the trip to Cornwall still contains a Vunipola – Manu, cousin of Billy and Mako, starts at fly-half in a star-studded backline which includes Scotland internationals Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor as well as wing Alex Lewington, who has been preparing his teammates for the challenge ahead.

"Alex and a few others led a presentation last week about what to expect from the clubs we will face," McCall said.

"Alex in particular spoke about the emotions of being part of a club that has to deal with the impact of relegation (with London Irish in 2016) and the focus on the next challenge.

"But he also put all the clubs we will be facing on a map, to show where they are and what they represent to their communities.

"It reminded all of us that we've come through clubs just like them, where we know there are so many brilliant people who work hard both on and off the pitch.

"We're not above playing at these clubs and that's the attitude we've got to take into all of this. We need to show respect and go about our business in the right way.

“It is very important to get back up and we have ten games to try and get into the top two. If we do that then there will be a two-legged playoff final. For now, it is just good to be playing again.”

Jackson Wray captains Saracens in their Championship opener, which is available to stream for £10 on the club’s website.

Saracens team to face Cornish Pirates:

15 Elliott Obatoyinbo 
14 Alex Lewington 
13 Duncan Taylor 
12 Juan Pablo Socino 
11 Sean Maitland 
10 Manu Vunipola 
9 Aled Davies 
1 Richard Barrington 
2 Kapeli Pifeleti 
3 Vincent Koch 
4 Callum Hunter-Hill 
5 Tim Swinson 
6 Mike Rhodes 
7 Sean Reffell 
8 Jackson Wray (captain) 


16 Sam Crean 
17 Eroni Mawi 
18 Alec Clarey 
19 Joel Kpoku 
20 Andy Christie 
21 Tom Whiteley 
22 Dom Morris
23 Rotimi Segun