Gloucester host Saracens
November 26, 2010
Fly-half Nicky Robinson is back in action for Gloucester this weekend © Getty Images
Fourth hosts third as Gloucester welcome Saracens to Kingsholm on Saturday afternoon for what should be a riveting encounter between two sides intent on underlining their title credentials.
After a patchy start to the new season, the Cherry and Whites stormed to third in the table on the back of a four-game winning run only to suffer a surprise defeat at Newcastle last weekend.
Sarries capitalised on that surprise slip-up, taking third spot with a hard-fought win over Bath at the Rec. Brendan Venter's troops have now been beaten just once in their last seven Premiership outings but will be wary of a return to a ground at which they have not triumphed in over five years.
Gloucester - Player to Watch: James Simpson-Daniel continues to fascinate and intrigue. A player of such talent but one who has been blighted by injury, most rugby fans remain hopeful that he can soon recapture his very best form.
Gloucester - Team News: The Cherry and Whites are buoyed by the return of fullback Olly Morgan and fly-half Nicky Robinson from injury. There are also starts in the backline for centre Tim Molenaar and scrum-half Dave Lewis. Up front, lock Jim Hamilton is away on international duty with Scotland but his unavailability is tempered by the return of Dave Attwood, who has been released by England for the game.
Saracens - Player to Watch: Nils Mordt has been a pleasant surprise for a number of Sarries fans this season due to his admirable versatility. He will start at fullback this weekend and is worth keeping an eye on.
Saracens - Team News: Sarries welcome back Brad Barritt, who has recovered from a fractured finger, but fellow centre Adam Powell has been ruled out for three months with a shoulder injury. Elsewhere, Richard Wigglesworth gets the nod at No.9 ahead of Neil de Kock. The latter has been named on a bench which also features Jacques Burger.
Key Battle: The return of Robinson is hugely important for Gloucester as it means that they will have their first-choice fly-half on the field on Saturday. Sarries can only wish that they could say the same, with Derick Hougaard having been ruled out for perhaps the rest of the season. Owen Farrell is trying valiantly to prove an able deputy but he is not yet in the class of Hougaard. Advantage Gloucester.
Trivia: Gloucester are unbeaten in their last 17 games in all competitions at Kingsholm.
Stats: The Cherry and Whites have won seven of their last eight meetings with Saracens.
"We'll see a totally different Saracens side. They totally underperformed in the Anglo-Welsh game, dropped more balls than they did at Bath last week when they played in a very similar way but their execution and their detail was far better." Gloucester head coach Bryan Redpath plays down the significance of his side's 36-10 victory over Saracens in the Anglo-Welsh Cup a fortnight ago
Fantasy: Soane Tonga'uiha of Northampton is the only front-row forward to have scored more fantasy points than Saracens hooker Schalk Brits this season in the ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game.
Prediction: This one should be a cracking contest and it's very difficult to call. However, Sarries are missing some key men and home advantage will also prove key. Gloucester to get back to winning ways.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies