Sarries aim to make it two from two
August 4, 2011
Saracens will hope to kick-start their 2011-12 campaign with a trophy at the Stoop on Friday © Getty Images
Saracens go into Friday's J.P Morgan Asset Management Final at the Twickenham Stoop looking to retain their title following their win in the tournament's inaugural year.
However, Sarries will come up against a stern test in the form of hosts Harlequins while the Newcastle Falcons will hope to make amends for their final defeat last season. Other sides looking to gatecrash Saracens' party include Bath and Sale - both sides qualified in second place in the round hosted at their respective grounds. Elsewhere London Wasps will look to make an impact on Friday night having qualified second to Saracens in the second round of fixtures.
With all six sides favouring a blend of youth and experience, Friday night's encounter promises to be a rapid and exciting affair in front of the ESPN cameras.
Reigning champions Saracens have included young winger James Short who impressed in the second-round of the competition scoring five tries in the process and earning player of tournament. Short - who scored in the Premiership final for Saracens last term - will be joined in the Sarries side by the experienced Rod Penney. Marcus Watson gets another chance to grace the Sevens turf having impressed during the pool stage while Jackson Wray - who captains the side - hopes the tournament will pay dividends for his first-team prospects.
Last year's bridesmaids the Newcastle Falcons have backed rugby league convert Rikki Sheriffe to make an impact in the tournament and the former Bradford Bulls player comes into the side in place of Luke Eaves. With the rest of the squad similar to that which took the field in round three - Sheriffe is relishing the chance to run out for the Falcons. "I can't wait to pull on the Falcons jersey again and have a good blow out," Sheriffe said. "It was a good performance by the boys last week. They did the ground work and it will be nice to get amongst it all on Friday."
Hosts Harlequins have named a strong side and have brought in first-team wing Tom Williams to the squad in one of three changes from the side which won the opening round of the competition. Harry Sloan and Jordan Burns also come into the side which will look to luminaries Ross Chisholm and England Sevens international Ollie Lindsay-Hague for inspiration.
Quins academy coach Howard Graham is relishing the occasion and said: "Sevens is a fast and exciting game and, with the quality of this competition having increased even more since last year, Friday's final is going to be a great event, both on and off the pitch.
"Last year's group stage at the Stoop saw a great atmosphere and I can guarantee, with a predicted dry night, the final is going to be even better.
"We have put out a similar squad to the one that played down in Bath. We have had the chance to watch the other rounds and know that we will have tough competition, especially in the pool stages against Wasps and Newcastle.
"The team knows that they will have to play well as individuals but also as a team if they are to come away with the result they want and, with the coaches looking forward to next season, the players are keen to impress."
Sale's academy transition coach Pete Anglesea has made four changes to last week's squad for the tournament finale opting to bring in Ollie Cook, Hamish Smales, Will Bordill and Josh Fowles. Danny Bibby will have to continue his purple patch of form having shone in last Friday's leg.
Bath have retained the majority of the squad which saw them through the first leg of the tournament. Paul Roberts will captain the side - with the fly-half hoping to make an impression on Bath's coaches - while Chris Cook and James Tyas come into the squad after shining for England and Scotland respectively during the 2011 Junior World Championships.
London Wasps will look to senior players Alex Cheeseman and Jack Wallace for guidance while England U20 player Sam Jones is making his first appearance in a Wasps shirt since the U20 Junior World Championships.
Bath: Will Skuse, James Tyas, Joe Buckle, Alex Brown, Freddie Gabbitass, Ollie Woodburn, Tom Heathcote, Matt Keyte, Chris Cook, Paul Roberts (c), JJ Kilmartin, Richard Lane
Harlequins: Chris York, Jack Clifford, Charlie Walker, Ollie Lindsay-Hague, Tom Williams, Sam Smith, Harry Sloan, Miles Mantella, Luke Wallace, Ross Chisholm, Jordan Burns, Ben Urdapiletta
London Wasps: Joe Burton, Alex Cheesman, Richard Mill, Jonah Holmes, Mark Billings, Nathan Morris, Jack Wallace, Sam Jones, Greg Sullivan, Joseph Tariperiajua, Christopher Lewis, Tom Nicholls
Newcastle: Redford Pennycook, Will Welch, Aaron Myers, Joel Hodgson, Luke Fielden, Alex Tait, Ryan Shortland, Richard Mayhew, Mark Wilson, Will Chudley, Rikki Sheriffe, Chris Pilgrim
Sale: Mark Jennings, Will Bordill, Jordan Davies, Ollie Cook, Tom Brady, Alex Brown, Hamish Smales, Danny Bibby, Josh Fowles, Tommy Bell, Ed Tellwright, Nathan Fowles
Saracens: Jackson Wray (c), Scott Spurling, Will Fraser, Tom Jubb, Henry Staff, Rodd Penney, Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier, Marcus Watson, Matt Hanki, James Short, Ben Ransom, Dave Vincent
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton