May 22, 2015
Premiership Semi-Final - Match Preview
Semi-final Saturday is upon us. It’s that time once again for the Saints of Northampton to face Saracens as last season’s Premiership finalists meet each other in the last four of the competition at Franklin’s Gardens.
Here, we preview a mouth-watering clash.
Saracens head into the crunch semi-final on the back of ten try demolition of relegated side London Welsh. In drama filled final day of the regular season, Mark McCall’s side looked in fine fettle going into a tough trip away to the Saints.
Northampton rested many of their big hitters for a derby defeat away to Leicester Tigers. Jim Mallinder’s charges finished top of the pile after a superb domestic season.
Semi-final’s between the Saints and Sarries are always tense affairs, with the two side’s having met each other in the final four seven times in various competitions.
Saracens won the last semi-final meeting in February 2015, when they beat the Saints 24-20 at Allianz Park.
Saracens Director of Rugby, Mark McCall: “Northampton are a very good side, and particularly at Franklin's Gardens, but we have got a squad who don't mind being on the road and kind of relish hostile atmospheres. We were two wins behind Northampton in the final standings so we weren't a million miles away," added McCall.
"When I look back on this year in its totality then it has been a really good year, with two mini-slumps in November and one after the Champions Cup semi-final against Clermont.
"Aside from that it has been a really positive year for us. The season is now irrelevant and we now have a one-off game."
Saracens and England No8 Billy Vunipola: “Our fixtures against Saints have become a big fixture in our calendar and we enjoy the rivalry with them.
“We never doubted the team’s ability to make the play-offs. The goal was to get in the top four and now we’ve given ourselves an opportunity to challenge for the title.
"Hopefully we’ll have another game next week.”
Northampton Director of Rugby, Jim Mallinder: “Battles is a good word to use to describe games between the teams,” said the Saints director of rugby speaking Northamptonshire Telegraph. “We’ve had some cracking matches. The final was a really good one last year and we’ve had some good ones already this season.
“We know each other quite well and it’s going to be a great game.”
Northampton and England lock, Courtney Lawes: "Whoever you play it's going to be a tough game in the semi-finals and Saracens are no exception. They are going to bring it and do what they do well - they got very far in Europe this season so they'll bring the same attitude and play to win.
"It's up to us to counteract what their strengths are - there are certainly things they do better than us but like last time we played them we can find a way to win."
- 7 – Semi-Final meetings between these two sides. The Saints hold the edge, winning four times in last four meetings.
- 18 – Players Saracens and Saints have provided to Stuart Lancaster’s 50-man England World Cup training squad. Saracens with ten are most represented club, Saints (along with Bath) are second with eight representatives.
- 2 – Tries wing David Strettle needs to score to chalk up a half century of career tries in the Aviva Premiership
One to watch
Saracens - Jacques Burger
Burger is the man for the big occasion. Think back to his inspirational defensive displays in the Aviva Premiership final in 2011, his World Cup performances for Namibia late that season and his Man of the Match performance against ASM Clermont Auvergne in 2014.
The Sarries openside will bring up a century of appearances for the club on Saturday, and after nearly having to quit the game in 2012, and having to spend 18 months on the sidelines it is an achievement that is not lost on anyone connected at the club.
Jacques will be up for this one.
Northampton Saints - Stephen Myler
The metronomic Saints pivot Stephen Myler is the man who can make this Saints team tick. With power and pace throughout their side, it is the calmness and composure of Myler that really stands out in big clashes such as tomorrows. The former Widnes RL man keeps the scoreboard ticking over, and as accrued 222 Premiership points this season.
A man to watch out for.
15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Corbisiero
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Tom Stephenson, 23 James Wilson
15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Wyles, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Al Hargreaves (c), 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Ashton.
- Referee :Greg Garner (82nd Premiership game)
- Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce and Matthew Carley.
- TMO: Sean Davey.