By Darraghgirl
March 28 2019

  So this is it – the first crunch point of the season! The first game we can’t lose. Of course in recent seasons Saracens have got used to fighting on 2 fronts – having reached the business end of both domestic and European Cup competitions for the past 4 or 5 seasons. Player management is a skill that Mark McCall and his team have generally learned to do superbly well. Knowing when to play someone and when to give him the week off, when forces can be conserved and when they need to be pushed, can be a very fine line – in fact at half time on Saturday I feared that line had been crossed – but fortunately Sarries turned the game round in the second half and now look to be in a good position to take on Glasgow Warriors on Saturday.  

Saracens now have a European pedigree in spades. It is not so long ago that on reaching the knock-out stages of the competition, the team appeared starry-eyed, as if they didn’t quite belong. How things have changed. They now stride into the quarter finals as if by right. How dare anyone stand in their way. As teams like Exeter have found to their cost, this is something that comes with practice, with several years of dining at the top table, earning the right to be there.

By the strange quirks of the European Cup draw, Saracens will once again take on Glasgow Warriors, a team they beat twice during the group stages, in the quarter finals (although Glasgow put up a fight both times and will not be without hope on Saturday). This is only the second time the Scottish club have reached the knock-out stages – and as luck would have it their opponents on that occasion were also Saracens! Glasgow are doing pretty well in the Pro-14, sitting at the top of Conference A and having won 13 of their 18 games – not dissimilar to Sarries who have won 13 of their 17 games. In fact since losing to Sarries in January, Warriors have been unbeaten, winning against Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Connacht, Zebre & Cheetahs so confidence will be high. Sarries as we know have had rather more mixed fortunes during the Six Nations winning 3 of the 5 Premiership games and 2 of the 3 Premiership Cup games.

Warriors will be hoping to maintain the Scottish momentum against the “auld enemy” while Sarries will be intent on turning the tide. A number of the players will also be looking to renew acquaintances:- Ali Price, Sam Johnson, Fraser Brown, Johnny Gray, Adam Hastings and possibly Stuart Hogg for Warriors (although sadly not Nick Grigg who is out with an ankle injury) and Jamie George, George Kruis, Billy Vunipola & Owen Farrell along with Maro Itoje, Sean Maitland & Liam Williams for Sarries. Both managers will be looking to field their strongest possible teams. Warriors are also likely to be without Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, DTH Van der Merwe, Matt Smith, Ryan Wilson & George Horne but are hopeful Stuart Hogg might make it. Sarries will be missing suspended Mike Rhodes, Mako Vunipola, Juan Figallo, Richard Wigglesworth and possibly Vincent Koch (depending on how solid his head is) but the return of “Kritoje” poses a real selection problem at lock with Will Skelton & Nick Isiekwe performing so well there last Saturday.

Warriors team will possibly be something like :

Hogg, Matawalu, Steyn, Johnson, Hughes, Hastings, Price; Kebble, Brown, Z Fagerson, Swinson, Gray,  Harley, Gibbins (capt), Ashe.        Sadly I don’t think we’ll be seeing our old friend Petrus but you never know!

And who will Mark McCall select – I guess this is where he earns his pennies! But I suspect we will see something along the lines of:-

Goode, Williams, Tompkins (he features on the Fish advert!), Barritt, Maitland, Farrell, Spencer; Barrington, George, Koch (hopefully), Skelton, Kruis, Itoje, Burger, B Vunipola (although I feel Jackson Wray deserves to be there too somewhere).

The whistle will be in the mouth of Nigel Owens so hopefully a more sympathetic display than we were treated to last Saturday! Dave Rennie has already started the shenanigans by suggesting that Saracens will try to “Trick the Referee”. All I can say is that with Nigel in charge they will need to be a lot better than Paul Daniels if they are to succeed!

There are no second chances, Saracens have to win this one – let’s hope they do!

pqs: qs:
Posted by: (IP Logged)
Date: 28/03/2019 09:35

Barty - I believe you offered to do the match report? Hope that's OK

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:04:07:13:19:27 by Darraghgirl.

Posted by: Barty II (IP Logged)
Date: 28/03/2019 10:13

Yep, should be fine!

Posted by: SarrieSaint (IP Logged)
Date: 28/03/2019 22:23

Excellent preview.

I really hope to see Skelton, Kruis and Maro all starting together.

I get the feeling that missing some key niggly players Glasgow might actually try and take the game to Sarries in open play.

Your team above looks excellent although I'd have Earl over Burger. I know the later has huge experience but Earls speed adds a dimension that's somewhat lacking in our backrow and his break-down work will be vital IMO. Wray and Isiekwe (after a great game last week) on the bench.

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