Saracens v Worster Warriors | Saturday 28 November | Twickenham Stadium | 17:10
The Aviva Premiership log-leaders, Saracens, will look to maintain their perfect start to the season when they take on the ever-improving Worcester Warriors at Twickenham this Saturday.
Both teams have played a pragmatic brand of rugby this season, but that doesn't mean we're in for a boring game of Union at the home of rugby. Neither sides' backlines are scared to have a go when given space so we may well see a few long distance tries being scored.
To Win (80 Mins)
Is there a better team in European rugby at the moment? Saries have been in brilliant form both domestically and in Europe, and are yet to beaten. They have swept aside all comers with consummate ease thus far, and while it's still early doors in the season, I wouldn't be opposed to backing them to retain their Aviva Premiership Title.
Anyway, that will all be decided in the coming months, let's move back to the matter at hand, which is their clash with the sixth-placed Warriors. You may want to skip a few lines if you're a Warriors fan as the head to head encounters between the sides don't make for pleasant reading. The duo have met on three occasions since the inception of the Aviva Premiership and Saracens are yet to taste defeat. The 'Wolf Pack' have been so dominant in these fixtures that they've never won a game by less than 18 points, and an 18-point victory margin in this competition is as good as a 40 point margin in Super Rugby.
Key to Saracens' fantastic start to the season has been the form of flyhalf, Owen Farell. The English international seems to have matured beyond recognition over the past few months. He can no longer be accused of simply being a big, physical bloke in a number 10's jumper. His distribution skills have come on in leaps and bounds, and his kicking out of hand has been nothing short of magnificent. He may only play a cameo role off the bench, however, with head coach, Mark McCall, indicating that he will rotate the squad. Veteran pivot, Charlie Hodgson, will don the number ten jersey if Farell rested.
While Farell has played the lead role in a stellar backline cast, the forwards have offered a brilliant support act. The Vunipoala brothers have been in typically devastating form, and Michael Rhodes and Jacques Burger have lived up to expectations, however, there's a young man in this Saracens' pack who is starting to steal their spotlight. England age group representative, Maro Itoje, has been a thorn in opposition hookers sides all season. The 1.95 meter lock, is not just a great lineout option, he is also a potent threat in open play. His extraordinary pace and power allow him to make vital metres for his side. So impressive has the Camden-born lock's form been, that I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a call-up to the English senior squad for their Six Nations campaign next year.
The Warriors have gotten their domestic season off to a reasonable start. They opened their campaign with a one-point victory over the Northampton Saints, then suffered two consecutive defeats to Sale and Gloucester in rounds 2 and 3. The men from Worster then bounced back in round four with an eight-point victory over lowly Newcastle.
Their winning percentage in Europe mirrors that of their domestic campaign. Their opening fixture saw them defeat La Rochelle by 16 points, they then went down by 21 points to Zebre the following week.
In terms of personnel, Worster's off-season recruitment program is yet to pay dividends. New recruit and former Waikato Chief, Bryce Heem, is yet to stamp his mark on the Aviva Premiership, whilst fellow new boy, Tom Heathcombe, hasn't proved to be the answer to Worster's flyhalf conundrum.
With the new recruits still settling, it's going to be up to the old boys club to produce a performance at Twickenham this weekend. Despite his tender age, fullback, Ben Howard is one of the more established players at the club. The local lad has quite a bit of toe and a mean side step, so don't be surprised if he crosses the whitewash at some point. Chris Pennel is another one of Worcester's' backs that could provide some impetus. The utility back is a powerful runner, who reads the game really well. He has over a 140 caps for Worster and his experience will be vital in keeping the likes of Marcelo Bosch and Brad Barritt quite.
Worster's win/loss ratio in Europe and domestically seems to indicate a lack of consistency. They have the ability to turn on the style, but they can also be nothing short of atrocious if it's not their day. Even if they do have a good day at the office, I highly doubt they'll be able to even compete with this Saracens side. I'd strongly recommend backing Saries' to clear any margin that is thrown at them this weekend.
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