Sarries out to ground Falcons
March 25, 2011
David Strettle returns for Saracens © Getty Images
Saracens take on Newcastle at Vicarage Road on Sunday, with the Watford-based side out to further press their claims for a home semi-final in the Aviva Premiership.
They are up against a Falcons side still licking their wounds after last weekend's hammering by Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final, a game that ended a promising run of three wins.
Saracens are fresh from beating Leicester at Welford Road and carry into the game plenty of form, having won their last five domestic fixtures.
Saracens - Player to Watch: Andy Saull has been in good form of late and the scavenger will again want to use his pace and breakdown nous to put the Falcons under pressure.
Saracens - Team News: Former England prop Matt Stevens gets his second start for the club at loose-head, while Hayden Smith has been drafted into the second-row alongside skipper Steve Borthwick. In the backs, Neil de Kock and James short return at scrum-half and wing respectively, while Chris Wyles fills in at outside-centre.
Newcastle - Player to Watch: Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth was one of the Falcons off their game last weekend and will want to banish that display with a return to top form.
Newcastle - Team News: Tom Catterick comes in at fullback with Alex Tait switching to the wing at the expense of Luke Fielden. Luke Eves moves from the other wing to outside-centre with Tane Tu'ipulotu dropping to the bench and as a result Rikki Sheriffe gets a call-up out wide. Chris Pilgrim gets the nod at scrum-half while tight-head James Hall is promoted from the bench. In the only other change to the pack, Will Welch will pack down at openside.
Key Battle: Newcastle's set-piece emerged with some credit in last weekend's mauling at the hands of Gloucester but their lineout is set to face some intense scrutiny against Saracens. Expect the second-row match-up between Saracens' Steve Borthwick and Hayden Smith and Newcastle's James Hudson and Andrew van der Heijden to prove pivotal.
Trivia: Saracens' only home defeat in the Premiership since last February was 9-23 to Exeter Chiefs on October 30.
Stats: Sarries wing David Strettle has beaten more defenders than any other player this season - 23.
"They've had some decent results in Premiership in the past few weeks and it's put a bit if daylight between them and Leeds at the bottom of the table. We know they have some talented players and it's going to be a tough game." - Saracens' Adam Powell is not taking the Falcons lightly
"The Premiership is a key area for us now and securing our premiership status is our No. 1 goal and that's what we're going for." - Falcons head coach Alan Tait switches focus in the wake of his side's Cup disappointment.
Fantasy: Saracens wing David Strettle was in action for England last weekend, will he make an impact this time around? And is he in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game team?
Prediction: Newcastle have shown some form of late but will come up short against a Sarries side gunning for a home semi-final.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park