Saracens will be out to ensure their season doesn’t suffer a dramatic collapse as they look to recover from last weekend’s Heineken Cup final defeat with victory in the Premiership final on Saturday, but they will face a Northampton Saints side that have experienced a surge of momentum in recent weeks.
Sarries suffered a comprehensive 23-6 defeat at the hands of defending champions Toulon in the last ever Heineken Cup final to be played before the revamped Rugby Champions Cup comes into effect next season, and they face a massive task in bouncing back to reclaim the domestic trophy they lost two years ago.
But in Saints they face a side that was left to celebrate last weekend after a brilliant comeback victory over Bath saw Jim Mallinder’s side clinch the Amlin Challenge Cup and set them up for an unprecedented double – something they have never achieved in their history. Having seen off East Midland rivals Leicester Tigers in the semi-final via another late try, the Saints truly believe that this year is the one after finishing as runners-up last season in the 37-17 final defeat to the Tigers.
The match sees a number of England players take centre stage, although that has sparked a fair amount of controversy given that the likes of Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton and the Vunipola brothers Mako and Billy of Saracens, and Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Luther Burrell of Saints are unable to feature in next week’s First Test between England and New Zealand.
Saracens make three changes to the side that started last weekend’s cup defeat, with Mako Vunipola ruled out after undergoing surgery on a dislocated knee-cap. Richard Barrington comes into the front-row, with Mouritz Botha and Neil de Kock replacing Alistair Hargreaves and Richard Wigglesworth at lock and scrum-half respectively. Saints have also changed their number nine as Kahn Fotuali’I comes in for Lee Dickson, while the returning Salesi Ma’afu replaces Tom Mercey. Captain Dylan Hartley returns from a shoulder injury to feature among the replacements.
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Strettle; Farrell, De Kock; R Barrington, Brits, Stevens; Borthwick, Botha; Brown, Burger, Vunipola.
Replacements: George, Gill, Johnston, Hargreaves, Wray, Wigglesworth, Hodgson, Wyles.
Northampton Saints: Foden; Ken Pisi, George Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Fotuali’I; Corbisiero, Haywood, Ma’afu; Manoa, Lawes; Clark, Wood, Dickinson.
Replacements: Hartley, Waller, Mercey, Day, Dowson, Dickson, Wilson, Stephenson.
Kick-off: Saturday, 3pm.
Past Three Meetings:
Saracens 28 Northampton 24, 13 April, 2014, Aviva Premiership
Northampton 26 Saracens 7, 8 March, 2014, LV=Cup semi-final
Northampton 20 Saracens 16, 1 February, LV=Cup
Steve Borthwick will make his record 265th and final Premiership appearance before retiring at the end of the season, while Matt Stevens will return to South Africa after agreeing to join the Sharks.
Northampton have never won an Premiership final, having lost their one and only appearance in the Twickenham showcase final last season in a 37-17 defeat to Leicester Tigers.
Saracens won their only final in 2010-11 beating Leicester 22-18, having been defeated the year previous by the same side 33-27.
Saints fly-half Stephen Myler has scored 236 points in the Premiership this season – second only to Bath fly-half George Ford.
Saracens wing David Strettle has scored 11 tries in the Premiership this campaign, which is one less than top-scorer Veneriki Goneva and three more than his team-mate Chris Ashton.
Sarries have won six of their last seven matches at Twickenham. Their sole defeat in that run came in the Heinken Cup semi-final defeat last season.
Saracens – 1.7
Northampton – 2.56
To draw after 80 minutes – 24
TV: Live on BT Sport 1 at 3pm.