(File pix) Saracens' Chris Wyles (right) celebrates with Brad Barritt after he scores a try against The Wasps. Reuters Photo

PARIS: Already the kings of Europe for the last two years and top of the English Premiership, Saracens will be boosted by the return of British and Irish Lions fly-half Owen Farrell for the start of their Champions Cup defence.

Ulster and Wasps get this season's competition underway on Friday night before the champions make their bow on Sunday away to domestic rivals Northampton.

The two sides met on the opening day of the Premiership season with Sarries running in nine tries in a 55-24 thrashing at Twickenham, and that without Farrell.

As well as the half-back, South African forwards Schalk Burger and Schalk Brits could also return from injuries.

"Owen has trained for two days and is fine. Schalk Burger and Schalk Brits have a chance of being available," Saracens' director of rugby Mark McCall said.

"For Brits it will be soon after having his appendix out, so that would be a decent turnaround. He trained (on Wednesday) and if he has no reaction he has a great chance of being involved."

Saracens not only defended their title last season but also set a new record of 18 European matches in a row unbeaten as they defeated Clermont, the French champions, 28-17 in the Edinburgh final.

The north Londoners already look to have hit their stride this season, despite the absence of key players such as Farrell and England No.8 Billy Vunipola, out until the new year with a knee injury.

Getting off to a good start will be vital in a pool that includes Clermont -- beaten finalists in three of the last five years -- and Ospreys.

With such fierce opposition, it could be one of the groups whose runners-up fail to make the knock-out stages. -- Reuters

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