THE ONE WE HAVE TO WIN # 1
January 11 2018
So this is it – the point of no return. Saracens defence of their European crown could end here. Every European game from now on is a cup tie. Every game has to be won. After 1 bad day at the office in the Barnet snow, Saracens have put themselves in a position where they cannot lose. To Ospreys. To Saints and hopefully to anyone else after that. As things stand in the pool Clermont are on top with 18, followed by Ospreys on 13 and Saracens on 11. 4 points is a must, 5 would be handy.
The return of Michael Rhodes seems to have been a huge catalyst for a return to form for the Men in Black and with the addition of Billy and Maro last week, Saracens are really starting to look like their old selves:- Double European Champions. The trip to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday night will be the first season-defining game in 2018.
Ospreys have had a very mixed season. In European competition they have looked a tough competitive side, difficult to beat and giving the best a run for their money (close defeats to Clermont and Sarries are testament to this). In the Pro-14 they have struggled, lying in 6th place (out of 7) in Conference A, they have won just 4 out of 13 games with only Zebre beneath them. This has not been helped by a run of injuries to senior players and just when things were improving, Dan Lydiate, who has played only 12 times in his 2 seasons at the club, is side-lined again with a biceps injury. Ospreys are also missing Welsh Internationals Dan Baker, Tyler Morgan, James King & Corey Allen. However the squad still boasts the talents of Dan Biggar, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, Scott Baldwin and Alun Wynn Jones with Owen Watkin back from injury. Last weekend Ospreys managed a 1 point victory over Cardiff Blues and the previous week they beat Dragons 22-9 away from home so they appear to be running into some sort of form after heavy defeats to Glasgow and Munster and a narrow defeat to Scarlets on Boxing Day.
No one at Saracens will be taking anything for granted though and I fully expect Sarries to field their strongest possible XV with Mako, Jamie George and Vincent Koch in the from row, “Kritoje” back together in the second row and Rhodes, Burger (or Wray) and Billy in the back row. I assume Farrell and Wiggy will be the starting half-backs (although Spencer’s rapid improvement this season makes this one a tight call). Centres will presumably be Captain Fantastic Brad Barritt and Bish-Bash (assuming Duncan’s 2 head bangs in 2 weeks rules him out). Wingers are likely to be Maitland and a fit again Liam Williams (be interesting to see these 2 play together – I think it might have happened once so far?) with Alex Goode at the back.
I read that both sides have scored 17 tries during the competition this season – the highest in the competition, (over 50% of these scored in 3 games against Northampton!)
John Lacey takes charge of the game. He is a former player for Shannon & Munster, representing Ireland in the 7’s and A league. He officiated the 3rd place playoff during the 2015 RWC Finals and was one of 7 referees offered a professional contract by the IRFU in October last year.
We could still do with a reporter for the game - live or TV is fine. Any offer gratefully received otherwise you'll have to put up with me!pqs: qs:
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:01:23:13:01:05 by sutton_sarrie.
I still don't understand why a ref from the Pro14 is allowed to officiate at a match between a Pro14 team and one not.
Having sorted out equality in qualifying, we should have sorted this ordure out also!
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Please read and submit articles for publication. (*) As at October 31, 2017.