May 15, 2015
London Welsh vs Saracens - Match Preview
It’s being dubbed a Super Saturday. The excitement and fervour of the closing stages of the Aviva Premiership continues at the race for the play-offs and last European spots continues.
Saracens will be hoping to secure a Top 4 spot in the final weekend after slipping to fifth on the ladder with last week’s tight defeat to the Exeter Chiefs.
Here we preview Saracens' round 22 trip to face London Welsh
Mark McCall’s men head into Saturday’s clash with London Welsh in unchartered territory, as they head to the Kassam Stadium on the back of three tight defeats. Losses to Clermont Auvergne, Northampton Saints and Exeter Chiefs in the last three weeks have halted some of Sarries momentum heading into the play-offs.
That being said, Saracensare able to welcome back Billy Vunipola and skipper Alistair Hargreaves and McCall also has the luxury to welcome back Schalk Brits, Neil de Kock and Owen Farrell into the starting XV. McCall will be hoping that his side could go some way to repeating their 78-7 win in December over Welsh.
London Welsh Camp
There’s no escaping the fact that London Welsh’s season has been a disappointment. The relegated Exiles suffered their 21st straight league defeat of the season and their 31st in all competitions last weekend when Northampton Saints ran in 46 points to nothing at Franklin’s Gardens.
But hope springs eternal in the shape of former dual-code international and current Head Coach Rowland Phillips who is now focussing his attention on a quick return to the top flight after the former Neath & Warrington RL man signed a contract extension along with 14-members of his current squad.
It will be an emotional day at the Kassam when the highly respected London Welsh skipper Tom May brings down the curtain on fine playing career. The former England, Newcastle, Toulon and Northampton man will hope to inspire his teammates before the curtain falls on a 16-year playing career.
What needs to happen?
Heading into a crunch Premiership weekend Saracens are now level on 63 points with Exeter in the table and, with a points difference of three less than the Chiefs, several scenarios could still put Sarries into the play-offs.
They will qualify if they secure a bonus-point win and Exeter do not pick up five points against Sale, or if they win and either the Chiefs or Leicester, who play leaders Northampton, suffer defeat.
If Exeter win with a bonus-point, a large victory over the Exiles could be enough for Mark McCall's side to finish in the top four on points difference.
Full-back, Alex Goode
"It is still up to us to go through. We have to put in a good performance against London Welsh and they are not an easy team at home, especially against the top sides.
"We are aware they are dangerous, but also that we need to get as many points on the board as possible.
"We won't be worrying about Exeter as we need to focus on our task."
Retiring London Welsh centre, Tom May
“To end my career playing Northampton and Saracens, you can't ask for two better teams to go out against. I'm massively looking forward to one final challenge.
"We're used to being up against it and the challenge is there - let's make them work for it and take it to them for once, that's the mentality we'll have."
- 14 – Minutes it took Richard Wigglesworth to register a second-half hat-trick in the reverse of this fixture in December
- 5 – The winning margin from the last time Saracens travelled to the Kassam Staium in October 2012, when they beat Welsh 28-23.
- 6 – Tries loose-forward Opeti Fonua has crossed for the Exiles this season.
- 5.3 – Number tries Saracens average in Premiership games against London Welsh.
Saracens' One to watch – Owen Farrell
In a stop-start season for Farrell, chance's to dictate play in the Saracens No10 shirt this season have been curtailed in an injury-hit year. Farrell though is banging at the door to get back into the groove and will be relishing the opportunity to orchestrate proceedings for the north Londoners on Saturday.
Farrell was in fine form the last time Saracens faced London Welsh in the league, in a 78-7 11-try drubbing of the Exiles in late December. The England man kicked 33 points that day and produced a superb display of attacking rugby from fly-half. The steely minded Wiganer will be licking his lips for this one.
London Welsh's One to watch – Opeti Fonua
The Exiles rumbustious Tongan No8 will be heading to Welford Road next season with his form in a disappointing season for Welsh a welcome highlight for the Kassam faithful.
Fonua’s talent was certainly on show in the last time Saracens faced London Welsh, in February’s LV=Cup clash between the two sides in Oxford when he crossed for a brace of tries in a tight defeat to a youthful and inexperienced Saracens side.
The hard-hitting Tongan will be looking to bow out in style before his summer move to Leicester.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode; 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Chris Wyles, 11 David Strettle; 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Schalk Brits, 3 Petrus Du Plessis; 4 George Kruis, 5 Alistair Hargreaves ©; 6 Jackson Wray, 7 Jacques Burger, 8 Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Duncan Taylor.
London Welsh: 15. Seb Jewell, 14. Alan Awcock, 13. Nic Reynolds, 12. Tom May (c), 11. Chris Elder, 10. Olly Barkley, 9. Rob Lewis, 1. Eddie Aholelei, 2. Koree Britton, 3. Jack Gilding, 4. Josh McNally, 5. Matt Corker, 6. Ben West, 7. Darren Waters, 8. Opeti Fonua.
Replacements: 16. Nathan Morris, 17. Nathan Trevett, 18. Ben Cooper, 19. Daniel Browne, 20. Richard Thorpe, 21. Paul Rowley, 22. Will Robinson, 23. Seb Stegmann.