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By Darraghgirl
September 25 2019

  It’s finally here – the start of a new season at Allianz with a visit from Sale Sharks in the Premiership Rugby Cup. I have to say I regarded this season with some trepidation, given the number of Saracens in Japan, (15 + 1) but so far so good! A trophy in the bank (a trophy retained) already at the 7’s and an emphatic away win at the Ricoh by an inexperienced side last weekend is certainly a cause for optimism!  

The domestic game is somewhat under the radar at the moment, overshadowed by events out East, and the PRC has always been very much the “bridesmaid” in our domestic competition stakes, usually tucked away during the autumn internationals. So it is quite nice to have it at the start of the season with many teams playing more of their first team squad (presumably for game time in lieu of warm-up matches) and a nice mix of youngsters alongside their more experienced colleagues.

Last weekend Sale had a good win at home to Cup holders Northampton Saints, scoring 5 tries in the process including one from our old friend Chris Ashton. Sale fielded a pretty strong team – along with Ashy they included a strong pack featuring Josh Beaumont, Ben Curry, Jake Cooper-Woolley & Ron Weber. Both Du Preez boys played with Robert at 10 and Sale also fielded Denny Solomona & Simon Hammersley in the backs. They are of course without the irreplaceable Faf de Klerk at scrum half. Young Gus Warr tried to fill his boots and was replaced by Springbok Embrose Papier (wonderful name!) for the final quarter.

Steve Diamond suggested he would field a similar mix of youth and experience against Sarries.

“I think we’ve got a good squad – we’ve got strength in depth. We can afford to change the front row, we can give lads opportunities like Bevan Rodd, who came on and played very well. “The younger player will get their opportunities – all they’ve got to do is what’s normal, what they did here. It’s easy to slip one or two into a squad, put any more in and it does make it weak but to give them game-time like we have done shows the reward for what they’ve done in practice. We’ll use the Premiership Rugby Cup in a pretty similar way to how we did here. We’ve got a squad who’ve not played together since May, so next week we may rest a couple of players who’ve got injuries. We’ll give the lads who didn’t play here a game next week and then go pretty much full strength for the last two Cup games.”

So does that mean Ashy won’t be making a return to Allianz? We shall see.

As for Saracens well God only knows what team we shall see. Last week’s selection, with 9 debutants, clearly made a statement and the boys done well! Sarries have a track record for sticking to the youngsters in the PRC but this year is a bit different and I would expect to see most of the senior players (who are left) get a bit of game time over the next 3 weeks before the Premiership proper starts. It may be we see more of the senior squad at home than away. But who knows!

I’d be pretty sure the likes of Brad Barratt, Ben Spencer and Alex Goode (who was encouragingly playing tennis on twitter last week) will be kept under wraps for a while. Resources in the front row are pretty limited – probably some rotation here with maybe Barrington and Gray starting alongside Sam Wainwright.  We know Rhodes and Malins are out but we may see Lozowski and/or Lewington put in an appearance. Sarries may be tempted to give Willemse a start this week alongside the impressive Tom Whiteley.

I’m not even attempting to predict the teams – too many variables but I have no doubt the coaching staff on both sides know exactly what they’re doing. Regarding the result – well on paper Sale are probably stronger (but then I would have said that about Wasps last week) but with home advantage who knows? So far the youngsters have done the business. Let’s hope they can keep it up!

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25/09/2019 19:47
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:10:08:21:39:21 by Darraghgirl.

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