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EYE OF THE TIGER


By Darraghgirl
February 14 2019

This weekend sees the return of The Gallagher Premiership after a somewhat extended break! The last game was on 4th Jan when we were soundly beaten by Sale Sharks up at the A J Bell – gosh that seems a lifetime ago! Just to remind everyone of the status quo – Sarries  sit in second place in the GP, 4 points behind Exeter Chiefs. Both teams have won 10 out of 12 matches but Chiefs have accrued 4 more bonus points (worth a win that!).

Sarries are 14 points ahead of 3rd placed Harlequins with Gloucester in 4th, 1 point further behind. Chiefs are away at Gloucester on Friday night – Gloucester also hosting Sarries next Friday! These next few weeks will be challenging for the team. The Six Nations – whereby Internationals disappear for 8 weeks, challenges any squad, even one as big as Saracens. So to recap, we have lost Mako & Maro to injury in the national cause and Jamie George, George Kruis, Billy and Faz have been retained by Eddie (unsurprisingly). In theory both Sean Maitland and Liam Williams are released back to us but whether or not they will feature will be interesting. I am not sure if Titi is still away with the USA. We have also had Joel Kpoku away with the Under 20’s.

Our opponents this Saturday, Leicester Tigers, are another team who “donate” quite a few players to the National cause. The rejuvenated Dan Cole has been released but Tigers will still be without Jonny May, George Ford, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and Ellis Genge. Leicester also have the services of promising young hooker Jake Kerr (Scotland) and Jonah Holmes (Wales) although David Denton is still unfit. So on the face of it, they will struggle more with loss of backs, we will struggle more with loss of forwards and we both lose our first choice fly half!

It may not have been the best season so far for Leicester Tigers but they are always dangerous and often stage a late run. Geordan Murphy  replaced  Matt O’Connor in September as interim Head Coach but was confirmed as Head Coach just before Christmas at least bringing some stability to the club. They are currently in 7th,  on 29 points having won 5 of their 12 games. They are, however on the same points as Sharks and Wasps above them and only 3 points behind Gloucester in 4th so all is by no means lost for Tigers – there is still much to play for.   Let us not forget the 2 teams met at Allianz last season, again during the six nations, and Tigers took Sarries apart with 3 first half tries, eventually winning 20-28 with a try bonus.

Tigers could field a team something like:- Worth, Olowofela, Aspland-Robinson, Eastmond, Holmes, Toomua, White, Bateman, Kerr, Wells, Fitzgerald, Williams, Evans Kalamafoni (thanks to Tigersimon).

As for Sarries, I think the big decision will be who plays 10? Malins looked useful last week against Worcester but he is a guy who plays far better behind a dominant pack, he seems to struggle to impose himself when things are tighter. Having said that, I think McCall will pick Malins at 10 but expect to see some regular interchanges between him and Goode. I would also pick Loz at 13 ahead of Tompkins, again to support Malins. Loz can then take on the kicking duties. I would rather start Wiggy inside Malins than Spencer but I feel Malins struggles at the moment with the kicking responsibility so therefore if Loz doesn’t start, Spencer has to. (Yes I know Goode can kick but I think this one could be tight and we need a reliable boot – Goode can be amazing, and he can be cr*p). The other dilemma is on the wing. Do we start Williams and/or Maitland? I think that depends on whether Stretts is fit. If he is I would go with Stretts and Lewington with Maitland on the bench, otherwise start Maitland and put Williams on the bench (he’s had a couple of tough games for the Welsh and I think Sarries will put player welfare first). As for the forwards, I would be tempted to start Tolofua. I know he’s out of favour at the moment but I think he’s added something over the past few weeks when he’s come on.

So we may see something like:- Goode, Lewington, Lozowski, Barratt, Strettle (or Maitland), Malins, Wigglesworth, Barrington, Tolofua, Koch, Skelton, Clark, Isiekwe, Burger, Wray.

This game could well be won by the “finishers” – whose bench is the strongest?  Tigersimon has gone for Youngs, Gigena, Heyes, Kitchener, O’Connor, Harrison, Hardwick, Owen. As for Sarries, we may see something like: Woolstencroft, Adams-Hale, Walker, Kpoku, Vailanu, Spencer, Tompkins, Gallagher (or Maitland).

In their wisdom the RFU have appointed the Chuckle Brothers (aka Foley and Hughes) to take charge, god help us! Should be a good game, the weather looks great and I fancy Sarries to take revenge, but only just.

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EYE OF THE TIGER
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14/02/2019 16:26
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:02:23:14:22:32 by Darraghgirl.

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