Saracens tackle exiles at HQ
September 2, 2010
Saracens boss Brendan Venter was banned from joining his side at Twickenham for last season's final © Getty Images
Saracens return to the scene of their agonising Premiership Final loss to Leicester on Saturday looking to exorcise the ghosts of that day.
Twickenham plays host to the first act in the traditional London Double Header just over three months since the Tigers' smash'n'grab in the dying moments of last season. Saracens were denied the services of their coach Brendan Venter that day due to a ban but the vocal South African will be pitchside this time around as his side launch their campaign to go one better this time around.
London Irish are also no strangers to the Premiership Final having also been vanquished by the Tigers in the 2009 showpiece. But they failed to back that impressive showing up last term and if they are to make a play for the post-season again there is not better place to serve a signal of intent.
London Irish - Player to Watch: New signing Daniel Bowden claims the No.12 jersey and with it a lot of the play-making responsibility.
London Irish - Team news: Samoan winger Sailosi Tagicakibau is recalled while hooker David Paice and prop Faan Rautenbach return to an all international front row that also includes new club captain Clarke Dermody
Saracens - Player to Watch: Alex Goode is handed the fly-half berth having been groomed for the role last season. A dazzling game-breaker at his best, he can expect to see a lot of ball.
Saracens - Team News: There are full debuts for summer signings Richard Wigglesworth and Kelly Brown. But Steve Borthwick, David Strettle and Neil de Kock miss the game with injuries.
Key Battle: If both these sides come looking to play a lot may depend on what the fullbacks - London Irish's Delon Armitage and Saracens' Chris Wyles - bring to the party in both defence and attack.
Trivia: This game will be the first broadacast live by ESPN as part of their three-year deal with Premiership Rugby that will see 43 games broadcast on the channel this season including one semi-final and the final exclusively.
Stats: London Irish have a won four, lost two record in the six previous seasons of the London Double Header. Saracens' record in previous London Double Headers is an even won three, lost three. In five of the last six encounters between the two teams the defeated side has obtained a losing bonus point.
Odds: Money burning a hole in your pocket? Bet365 have Saracens as 4/7 favourites to begin the season with an 'away' win - this is a 'home' game for London Irish. There was only four points between these sides on both occasions last season so perhaps London Irish to win by between 1-5 points at 5-1?
"We have a lot of strength and when I look at our pre-season, I think our biggest strength is we have a lot of depth now. We had a philosophy last year which was a squad wins a championship and not a team and I think we are more than capable of that." - Saracens boss Brendan Venter
"We are here win to everything, we are here to win silverware. Our priority will first and foremost be the Premiership. It always is because there has only been one team to win the Heineken Cup before they have won the Premiership." - Exiles coach Toby Booth
Fantasy: This weekend also marks the start of the ESPN Premiership Rugby Fantasy Game so we can't give you an insight on key performers just yet - but we will. Have you entered your team yet?
Prediction: Saracens were pretty special at times last season and the painful end to that campaign is sure to inspire a backlash this season which bodes well for their fans and not so well for the Exiles who remain bullish about their chances. Expect Sarries to lay down a marker.
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament