Premiership semi-finals: Saracens v Northampton Saints match preview

A look ahead to this weekend's semi-final at Allianz Park

Saracens will take on Northampton Saints at Allianz Park in the second of this weekend’s Aviva Premiership semi-finals with both sides harbouring hopes of running out in the final at Twickenham on May 25.

This season was the first time that Saracens have finished top of the table come the end of the season, and the 2011 Premiership champions will want to claim their title back, starting with a victory against the Saints on Sunday.

Northampton saw off Gloucester to claim the final play-off position, and despite losing their final league game to fellow semi-finalists Harlequins last weekend, they will feel they have a genuine chance of progressing to their first Premiership final.

Both sides lost in last year's semi-finals, with Saracens knocked out by Leicester Tigers while Northampton were defeated by eventual champions Harlequins by a narrow 25-23 result.

However, defeating the league-leaders will prove a difficult task as Sarries saw off the Saints both home and away this season, and they are yet to lose in their new home in Barnet. Having beaten Northampton at Stadium:MK earlier in the season, Saracens will be with the knowledge that they have the composure on the big stage to triumph in yet another semi-final - their third this year.

Having lost to Sale Sharks in the LV Cup semi-finals before losing to a Jonny Wilkinson inspired Toulon in the Heineken Cup semi-finals a fortnight ago, Saracens will want to make sure they don't choke once again, and it will be the latest in a long line of tests for Lion-in-waiting Owen Farrell.

The young fly-half quickly developed a reputation for remaining cool under pressure, but the RBS Six Nations championship-deciding defeat to Wales along with the Toulon loss has seen questions raised about the Englishman's temperament.

Nevertheless, his talent is unquestioned, and he will look to control the game with his boot and put points on the board quickly - an approach that Saracens have used successfully to put their opposition out of the game early on.

He will be joined in the team with his fellow Lions tourists Mako Vunipola and Matt Stevens, who make up a third of the props travelling Down Under. Stevens was the surprise selection in head coach Warren Gatland's squad, and perhaps picked for his versatility in the scrum alone, he will want to put on a good display to prove his critics wrong.

Saints are led by their own Lion, with Dylan Hartley seeing off Ireland's Rory Best for the final hooker position. It is expected that Hartley will be behind Wales' Richard Hibbard and Aviva Premiership player of the year Tom Youngs, but as we have seen in tours previous, a run of strong performances can elevate anyone into the starting XV.

But before all that, the players will be focused on Sunday's match-up. With everything at stake in terms of the Premiership final, both teams will want to ensure that their season doesn't end this weekend, and it will surely be an intriguing game to watch for any rugby fan.

Previous three meetings...

Saracens 17 Northampton Saints 16, Aviva Premiership (Stadium:MK), December 30 2012

Northampton Saints 6 Saracens 16, Aviva Premiership, October 27 2012

Saracens 18 Northampton Saints 12, Aviva Premiership, March 4 2012

 

TV: Saracens v Northampton Saints is live on ESPN at 3pm on Sunday

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent