BACK TO THE RICOH
April 24 2019
With the strange coincidences that often beset rugby matches, Sarries return to the Ricoh Stadium just 7 days after their triumphant semi-final victory over Munster, this time to face Wasps in the Premiership. I suspect it will be a very different experience for supporters and fans alike. This time Saracens will be in the away changing room, and presumably playing in red. The trains might be running (!) and the attendance will probably be higher (take note EPCR). The Saracens team may also be a bit different although just how different is the big question.
All credit to Mark McCall and his band for getting pretty much our first-team squad on the pitch last Saturday – no mean feat so late in the season. Saracens have made no secret of the fact that they are targeting the European Cup so the priority will be getting those same players, fit and raring to go, onto the pitch at St James’s Park on 11th May. But Saracens have also mentioned a “double double” – which means they also need to win the Premiership and as we all know, a home semi is far from guaranteed. McCall gambled against Bristol by sending what was essentially a second team and hoping that by reinforcing the bench, it would be good enough to secure the win. As we know it didn’t happen and therefore resources will need to be carefully managed over the next few weeks to ensure everyone is match-fit but reduce the risk of injuries and fatigue.
Leinster don’t have a game next weekend so I would imagine McCall will target the 2 away games (Wasps and Wuss) to gather the max 8 points we need to confirm a home semi. Barring very strange happenings, our opponents will almost certainly be Gloucester. The only unanswered question is where the game takes place. I think we could put out a strongish team this weekend, then rest most of the first team against Exeter (the Chiefs are pretty much guaranteed top spot and hate risking their most valuable players on our plastic pitch. An understrength Sarries team has little to lose. A defeat and Chiefs have only beaten the “also rans”, a victory and it’s win win all round). Once we play Wuss we will know exactly what we need, the European Final will be over and it can then be all hands to the pump.
So my team for Saturday would be:
Goode/Williams, Stretts, Loz, Tompkins, Maitland (if fit otherwise Lewington), Faz, Wiggy, Mako, Jamie, Titi, Maro/Kruis, Skelton, Rhodes/Wray, Earl, Billy
As to our opponents Wasps, this hasn’t been the most auspicious of seasons. There are rumours that it is not a happy ship and many of their established players have signalled their intention to leave. But despite all that Wasps are 5th – but in this topsy turvey season, only 3 points clear of Sale in 8th and only 3 points behind Quins in 4th. A semi-final spot is a possibility and a European Qualifying spot should be within reach for Wasps so they will have everything to play for. It must also irk them that their former rivals from their London days turned up on their pitch and put Munster to the sword in a competition in which they finished bottom of their group without winning a single game.
Wasps should be on a bit of a high having despatched Premiership leaders Exeter at Sandy Park last time out preceded by a home win over Wuss however they had lost their previous 4 Premiership games (Gloucester & Leicester away, Falcons & Sale at home). Wasps have dangerous players within their ranks not least England Internationals Joe Launchbury, Brad Shields, Nathan Hughes and soon-to-be-Saracen Elliott Daly. Sarries will need to be careful of their discipline with Daly’s legendary boot about! The Sopoaga (back from a broken hand) and Hughes double act was very effective against Chiefs.
Dai Young said yesterday “I hope they give us respect and play their best team. If we beat Sarries, we want to beat their best team. They’ve certainly got a number of games to manage now but it’s something they’re used to. They haven’t got a bad player in their squad. They’re bringing seasoned internationals off the bench. You don’t sit at the top of the Premiership and do well in Europe year on year by chance so we know what quality in depth they’ve got. They’ll have a 23 good enough to win wherever they go.”
Wasps do have some injuries to contemplate. Gaskell is said to be 50/50 but Wasps are hopeful Jimmy Gopperth will be available for selection for the first time this season after rupturing knee ligaments in the pre-season friendly against Connacht. Wasps will however be without Dan Robson, Thomas Young, Michael Campagnaro and Jack Willis for the remainder of the season. Tom Cruse also went off very early against Exeter and may not make it. Otherwise, having had a week off, I would expect Wasps to field a similar team to that which beat Exeter :
Le Roux, Watson, Daly, Lovobalavu, Bassett, Sopoaga, Simpson, Zhvania, Johnson, Cooper-Woolley, Launchbury, Rowlands, Shields, Carr, Hughes
Finally we are graced with Mr Wayne Barnes on the whistle so there shouldn’t be any complaints about the standard of refereeing. It’s another tight one to call. Sarries away form has been shocking – it is 5 months (Leicester away in November) since the team managed a Premiership away win. It’s about time Sarries put an end to that undesirable run!pqs: qs:
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:05:02:11:10:57 by Darraghgirl.
Yes, our GP away form has been dreadful recently, so to get a win at the Ricoh would end a disappointing run. Should we get it, if Glaws took nothing from their game at Wuss, our last two games would be irrelevant so far as the home semi is concerned - and it is a very big IF.
Of course Mark, staff and players alike would like to win all remaining games well, but there are no easy ones - just keeping fingers crossed we come through Saturday with no injuries, or even niggles.
Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please - Niccolo Machiavelli
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Purfleet Sarrie, hopefully you're OK to do the report (I shall be somewhere in the North Downs)
Hi. Will do it absolutely. Thank you for the fab preview.
Quote:I hope you emerged from the tunnel unharmedTheSaracens.com
(I shall be somewhere in the North Downs)