Sarries out to seal second
April 22, 2011
Alex Goode has enjoyed a productive season for Saracens © Getty Images
Second-placed Saracens can secure a home draw in the play-offs if they see off third-placed Gloucester at Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon.
Sarries, who are five points clear of the visitors, certainly look well placed to do just that as they go into this fixture on the back of an eight-game winning streak - their best ever run in the Premiership and one which has drawn them to within three points of leaders Leicester.
However, Mark McCall's men will be very wary of a Gloucester side brimming with belief at the moment after snatching a dramatic draw at Leicester last weekend before battling their way to a fine win over Northampton at Kingsholm on Tuesday night. In addition, Saracens hold no fears for Gloucester as they have won eight of the last nine games between the two sides.
Saracens - Player to Watch: Jacques Burger was one of Sarries' most influential players in the early part of the season and they will want him to deliver another dose of power and breakdown nous against Gloucester.
Saracens - Team News: Skipper Steve Borthwick and scrum-half Neil De Kock return after injuries in an otherwise unchanged XV.
Gloucester - Player to Watch: James Simpson-Daniel returns after a long lay-off to add his own particular brand of magic to the backline, he should slot in seamlessly to a Gloucester side that has shown plenty of flair in recent weeks.
Gloucester - Team News: Scotland lock Jim Hamilton returns to the pack, while Henry Trinder slots into midfield and Tom Voyce shifts to fullback. Freddie Burns and Dave Lewis are paired at halfback.
Key Battle: The 10 battle will be between two of England's brightest young talents in Burns and Owen Farrell, control will be key for both sides.
Trivia: Gloucester have emerged triumphant on five of their last eight visits to Vicarage Road.
Stats: Saracens have won more lineouts (170) than any other side in this year's Premiership.
"We are looking for a home semi-final so that means we have got to win each game. We have got to keep winning and that has been the club's mentality throughout the season, no matter what the game." - Sarries fly-half Owen Farrell
"We've been a little bit flaky over the last month or so, but Tuesday night was very resolute. It shows that if you get your patterns right and keep the levels up, then you can defend for long periods." - Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath.
Fantasy: Saracens' Alex Goode has racked up an impressive 87 points in this season's ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game. Time to add him to your side?
Prediction: Sarries have a steely core and will not allow Gloucester any freedom to play. A big home win in the context of the season.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year
With just two rounds left in the 2014 championship, the intensity cranks up a notch at Twickenham. Tom Hamilton previews the weekend's action
"I had a perfect record against England as did a few other Welshmen. England always seemed to bring the best out of us." John Taylor on the age-old rivalry
Are the margins between the teams in the Six Nations getting smaller year-on-year? Huw Richards gives some answers