Apr 14, 2017
Match Preview: Northampton Saints vs Saracens
Saracens face Northampton Saints at Milton Keynes Stadium:MK on Sunday in round 20 of the Aviva Premiership, we take a closer look at Easter Sunday's clash.
It’s all-change for Saracens, with Mark McCall making nine changes to the Starting XV that brushed aside Harlequins at Wembley Stadium. The Men in Black have rested players such as skipper Brad Barritt, halfback Richard Wigglesworth, England men Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola all missing from the squad and regulars Mike Rhodes, Chris Ashton and Billy Vunipola named on the bench.
There will be some notable milestones on the day though, with Duncan Taylor making his 100th Saracens appearance, academy lock Nick Isiekwe making his Premiership debut and Jamie George captaining the side in the absence of Brad Barritt. Returnees for Saracens are Marcelo Bosch and from injury, George Kruis and Schalk Burger. Click here for full-team news.
For Saints, the big news is George North will miss the clash after picking up an injury in training during the week. A pair of changes in the backs see Ken Pisi and Luther Burrell start, while their places on the bench are filled by Rory Hutchinson and Juan Pablo Estelles. Click here for more on the Northampton Saints side.
Back to Stadium:MK
The home to Football League side MK Dons, Sunday’s game will be Saracens’ fourth visit to stadium since 2008.
Known locally as the Denbigh Stadium, the ground has played host to two Saracens ‘home’ matches in the past, with the Men in Black facing Bristol and Northampton Saints in 2008 and 2012 respectively. Since then
The first-time Saracens played at Stadium:MK was in May 2008. The Men in Black defeated Bristol in an entertaining 25-20 win, but it was the final curtain call of a rugby legend that made the headlines.
It was the final game Richard Anthony Hill MBE. Dubbed ‘Mr Saracens’ for over 15 years, the legendary England and British Lions back rower finally called time on a wonderful career that saw him lift a World Cup. A one club man throughout his career, Hill made 275 appearances for the north Londoners.
In 2012, a late miss from Saints outside-half Stephen Myler proved to be crucial as Saracens edged a tight-game against Northampton 17-16. In 2015, in a game where a kit mix-up saw Saracens change strips at half-time, it was the Saints who ran out 25-20 winners. Since then the stadium hosted three Rugby World Cup games in 2015.
Last Time Out
Saracens hosted Northampton Saints in round three of the Aviva Premiership and it was the Men in Black who ran-out 27-12 with Sunday’s skipper Jamie George crossing for a try.
Saracens only loss in their last five matches against Northampton in all tournaments was 15-20 at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby in March 2016 but the Saints, coming off the back of two narrow loses to Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers and Wasps look to be back to playing some of their best rugby with talismanic No8 Louis Picamoles leading the charge from the back-row.
Saracens One to Watch – Joel Conlon
Back-row bolter Joel Conlon has been quietly going about his business for Saracens this season but his stock is rising as one of the club’s most promising academy graduates of recent time. A Man of the Match performance in his full Premiership debut against Sale Sharks in round 16 have been followed up by some very impressive outings off the bench in both league and Europe. Conlon is a fine ball-carrier and his work-rate is particularly impressive - one for Saracens fans to keep an eye on as he prepares to face tackle a star-studded Saints back-row of Gibson, Wood and Picamoles on Sunday.
Northampton Saints One to Watch – Nic Groom
A signing that may have slipped under the radar for Franklin’s Gardens outsiders but the arrival of South African halfback Nic Groom has been a canny piece of business from Saints’ director or rugby Jim Mallinder. The former Western Province and Stormers scrumhalf is an intelligent scrumhalf who organises his pack superbly well and with crisp service and an eye for a half-break around the fringes you could liken him to another former Newlands number nine, our very own Neil De Kock. Saracens back-row forwards will have to keep a close-eye on the Northampton Saints general.
Saracens centre, Duncan Taylor: “I think that everyone is pumped for it. We’re coming off the back of playing at Wembley and this is obviously going to feel a little different but it’s another great stadium and there should be an exciting atmosphere.
“I think it will feel like a neutral ground on the day and we’ve got to be up for it because it’s going to be a difficult game against Northampton.”
Northampton Saints full-back, Ben Foden told the Northampton Saints website: “There’s always been a rivalry between us and Sarries. I think it’s a testament to any good player that you can step up for the big occasions and playing one of the best teams in Europe you want to put in a good performance and show the rugby world that we’re a team that are ready to go against them and that we can out our best against them any day of the week.”
Northampton Saints v Saracens
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla, Gareth Copsey TMO: Graham Hughes
Where to Follow
Live – Stadium:MK, kick off 15h00. Tickets are still available at the Stadium MK Box Office open from 9am on Sunday morning.
TV – Live on BT Sport
Twitter - @saracens
Radio: BBC Radio Northampton