Sarries head for Barnet via Wembley

Champions expect record club crowd against Quins as they get permission for new home

Saracens, the Premiership champions, expect to obliterate the world record for a club rugby crowd by filling Wembley to its 90,000 capacity for this weekend's derby against Harlequins, who have been making the running in the league since mid-September. They are also confident of getting the hell out of their ramshackle base at Vicarage Road in Watford, where audiences struggle to reach 9,000, in good time for Christmas. Eric Pickles, the prop forward-sized Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has given them the all-clear to create a new home in Barnet.

The previous best mark for a club match was set three years ago, when 82,208 Irish supporters congregated for a Heineken Cup semi-final between Leinster and Munster at Croke Park in Dublin. The Londoners will beat that figure with plenty to spare and while heavily-marketed "specials" do not necessarily reflect the reality of Premiership popularity countrywide, it is still a watershed moment in the development of professional club rugby.

"When we first played a game at Wembley back in 2009 and pulled in a crowd of more than 40,000, Nigel Wray [the Saracens owner] said he hoped to sell the place out in three seasons," Mark McCall, the title-holders' director of rugby, said yesterday. "People laughed." He resisted the urge to point out that they are not laughing now. Instead, he added: "It says a lot about the English game that we can put on an occasion like this one."

According to McCall, the club will continue to stage games at Wembley – twice a season, perhaps three times – after they complete their move to the Copthall Stadium in Barnet, which will hold approximately 80,000 fewer spectators than the home of English football.

"It has been a long and sometimes painful process," he said, referring to the complexities of seeking planning permission for the new venue. "But we're now very hopeful of moving in around December time. For whatever reason, Vicarage Road hasn't worked out for us: we haven't drawn the crowds we feel the team deserves. I'd like to think we'll draw those crowds to Barnet."

There will be almost as many spectators at Wembley as there have been rumours about the make-up of England's full-time coaching team, the announcement of which is – how shall we put this? – rumoured to be imminent. Saracens, current employers of Andy Farrell, insisted yesterday that they had still heard nothing from Twickenham regarding the former Great Britain rugby league captain's services.

Stuart Lancaster, front runner for the job as head coach, wants to build on his Six Nations success by retaining both Farrell and the forwards specialist Graham Rowntree. However, McCall was blunt in pointing out that as far as he was concerned, Farrell remained a Saracen. "Since the Six Nations finished, there has been absolutely no contact from the RFU," he said. "The situation is simple: Andy is a Saracens coach. He's a huge part of what we do, a huge part of our plans."

With one member of Lancaster's red-rose squad, the Northampton flanker Calum Clark, scheduled to appear before a disciplinary tribunal tonight to answer a charge arising from an incident in the recent LV Cup final that left the Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins nursing a fractured elbow, there was another high-profile citing yesterday. Ben Youngs, the World Cup scrum-half who was the scorer of England's second try against Ireland 12 days ago, has been formally accused of striking the back-row forward Jamie Gibson with knee and fist while playing for Leicester at London Irish.

The citing officials have also gone after the Harlequins flanker Maurie Fa'asavalu following a heavy open-field hit that left the Bath fly-half Tom Heathcote, a less formidable physical specimen, in a crumpled heap during last Saturday's match at the Stoop. Fa'asavalu, outstanding for Samoa at last year's World Cup, has been charged with dangerous tackling.

One of Fa'asavalu's back-row partners at the global gathering, Ofisa Treviranus, has agreed a new deal at London Irish that will keep him at the club until 2014.

Suggested Topics
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home