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October 17 2019

  So finally it is here! 4 ½ months after Sarries defeated Exeter at Twickenham to retain their Premiership crown it all begins again. The prologue of Premiership Cup games is over and the curtain now rises for the main event. Many pundits are tipping Sarries to carry on from where they left off in June but they are forgetting one thing, one big thing – the World Cup to which Sarries have kindly donated 15 players and 1 coach. No team can be expected to produce quite the heights of Premiership & European double winners while missing that number of world-class players!  

Of course some of the guys are starting to trickle back. Juan Figallo has already arrived and Titi and Wiggy won’t be long. We will also, perhaps unexpectedly, get Taylor & Maitland back any day (not that our Sean is fully fit). But a team without Jamie George, Jack Singleton, Mako & Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Rhys Carre, Liam Williams and Vincent Koch (plus Damian Willemse – can we count him as one of ours?) is going to miss players of that calibre. Yes other teams are also affected but none to the level of Saracens. Some of those guys will only play 5 Premiership games for Sarries this season!

But luckily Saracens have strength in depth. As we know many of these chaps, like their International team-mates, came through Saracen’s development squads, either as youngsters or half-baked from other teams. Yet another hidden area of our club – the talent spotters!

Our opponents on Saturday are our old friends Northampton Saints. Only a couple of weeks ago, Sarries went up to Franklin’s Gardens and gave the “sinners” a good hiding, putting over 50 points on the home team. That was still a “warm-up” whereas on Saturday we will be looking at the real thing. Saints have also lost a few players to the World Cup, namely Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Dan Biggar, Piers Francis and Cobus Reinach along with Fijian Api Ratuniyarawa & Samoan Ahsee Tuala who are presumably on their way home. Saints put an end to a run of 3 defeats with a good win at Welford Road over Leicester Tigers on Saturday but their bid to defend the Premiership Cup they won last season is over as they failed to make the semi-finals.

Chris Boyd gave an injury update to the Northampton Chronical this week where he confirmed that Dylan Hartley, Harry Mallinder, Alex Mitchell & Reece Marshall are still not fit however Ollie Sleightholme, Tom Wood, James Gibson & Mike Haywood should all be available for selection.

I assume both coaches will be looking to field their strongest sides. For Saints we may see something like: Furbank, Naiyaravaro, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Collins, Grayson, Taylor, Van Wyk, Fish, Franks, Ribbans, Coles, Brussow, Harrison, Wood.

For Sarries, we have relative riches in the backs but limited resources in the forwards. The front row looked very unbalanced last week with the departure of Barrington. Ibuanokpe is so tall (and when Crean came on he definitely wasn’t) it must be difficult for the hooker. Talking of hookers, neither Pifeleti or Gray looked great last week, the line-out was not a thing of beauty so I think Woolstencroft is the better option.  Malins and Rhodes are still apparently not fit but hopefully Reffel has recovered. Given the suspension of Ibuanokope, Smally might be tempted to bring Figallo or Titi back in given our very limited resources at tight head. So I would expect something like: Gallagher, Lewington, Lozowski, Barritt, Segun, Goode, Spencer, Barrington, Woolstencroft, Figallo , Skelton, Isiekwe, Earl, Reffell, Wray.

I have to say I would be tempted to play Tompkins in the centre and Loz on the wing but I guess Segun deserves his chance even though his tackling looks rather weak. Could be interesting if he ends up against the huge Naiyaravaro – who is also rather suspect in the tackle! The bench however is likely to be pretty thin unless some of our returnees get a few minutes on the pitch. 

Our referee is Ian Tempest – not a wildly popular appointment with either side apparently! Reading through the Sinner’s board, most of them are expecting to loose and quite heavily. I doubt if it will be quite that simple.

Thanks to Innings for providing this week's match report - at least you'll get a break from my drivel!

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Discussion started by , 17/10/2019 20:11
17/10/2019 20:11
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:10:28:13:44:46 by Darraghgirl.

17/10/2019 21:30
Not drivel at all DG, as always a well researched good read. Thanks, yet again. I think you're close with our team if only because we've few others - perhaps Clark and Lamositele added to the mix, and like you Loz (or Gallagher) on the wing/15 to accommodate Tompkins. Not that my agreeing bodes well. Hopefully Woolstencroft has recovered.

One question - I oft hear it stated that many players will only play 5 Premiership games this season but like the Barnes retiring statement is there a definitive source? Looking here! are people confusing with 5 before the 6N (and 6 CC so none of our England starters will play them all)? There are a further 9 + 2 x KO post 6N.

27/10/2019 18:42
To answer my own question! You're (almost) correct DG, Alex Sanderson confirmed on BT Live Prem Tonight (a max of 7) if they play in all European and ko games. Presumably this applies to England players who have played in all World Cup games - might the France game increase this to 8?

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