Tom Vickers’ Saracens versus Northampton Saints preview
Fixture: Saracens v Northampton Saints (LV= Cup semi-final)
Date/kick-off time: Saturday, March 14, 12.30pm
Venue: Allianz Park
Weather forecast: 7C, cloudy
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Referee: Dean Richards
Saracens: Ransom; Ellery, Bosch, Streather, Strettle; Mordt, Spencer; Gill, Saunders, Figallo; Itoje (c), Smith; De Jager, Hankin, Joubert.
Replacements: Spurling, Barrington, Alo, Kruis, Brown, Whiteley, Palamo, Fercu.
Saints: Tuala; Elliott, Stephenson, Waldouck, Collins; Olver, Fotuali’i; Corbisiero, Haywood, Ma’afu; Manoa, Ryder, Dowson (c), Fisher, Dickinson.
Replacements: Williams, E Waller, Denman, Nutley, Clark, Dickson, Myler, Wilson.
Outs: Saracens: M Vunipola, B Vunipola, Wigglesworth (all international duty), Farrell, Brits (both knee), Barritt (ankle). Saints: Foden (knee), Hartley, Burrell, North, Lawes, Wood (all international duty), Craig (concussion).
Most recent meeting: Sunday, November 23: Saracens 24 Saints 31 (Aviva Premiership)
Tom’s preview: Saracens, in a semi-final, at Allianz Park. We’ve been here before.
But while the personnel will be very different and the competition is not as prestigious, there are still a couple of reasons why this weekend’s LV= Cup clash will carry some of the spice the Premiership play-off of 2013 possessed.
Whoever they field, Saracens and Saints always expect to prevail.
They are clubs not afraid to put faith in youth, with the Academy systems in place at both clubs producing plenty of gems.
That rich development stream was showcased in a recent Under-18s final between the sides - which Saracens won - and this weekend’s game is sure to show off their impressive production lines once again.
For Saints, the game may not have the incentive of a Premiership final against Leicester, as it did when they won 27-13 at Allianz Park two years ago, but an all-east midlands showpiece could still lie in wait next weekend.
Tigers are in the other semi-final against Exeter Chiefs and would dearly love to pick up the silverware at Franklin’s Gardens, the home of their main rivals, on March 22.
Equally, Saints will be desperate to stop them doing that and will crave an invitation to their own party.
Meanwhile, Saracens will seek revenge for last year’s LV= Cup semi-final defeat in Northampton, bidding to keep their own treble bid alive.
Consequently, though the nation’s attentions will be directed towards England’s game against Scotland at 5pm, there should be another decent game elsewhere in the capital earlier in the day.
Saints have made the semi-finals of the LV= Cup in four of the past six seasons, but have only lifted the trophy once in that time.
And how much would they love to lift it again, on home soil?
The answer will be revealed from 12.30pm on Saturday.
Tom’s prediction: Saracens 18 Saints 28