Aviva Prem: Wasps v Saracens Preview

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Shaun Goosen previews Sunday's make or break Aviva Premiership clash between Wasps and Saracens.

An absolutely gargantuan Aviva Premiership clash takes place on Saturday, as first hosts third with home play-off places on the line. This weekend marks the last batch of round-robin fixtures to be played before the semi-finals commence on Saturday the 20th, and all eyes will be on the events unfolding at the Ricoh Arena and Kingsholm Stadium - the former venue seeing Wasps (first) play host to Saracens (third), while the latter will set the stage for a Gloucester (eighth - and irrelevant in this conversation)/ Exeter (third) showdown.

Should Wasps and Exeter come away with wins, the league’s top three will remain the same, which will see both of the aforementioned hosting semi-finals (which will more than likely be Wasps versus Leicester and the Chiefs versus Saracens, given the Tigers’ ridiculous points difference). However, a Saracens win and a Chiefs loss will see the defending champions sneak into first (meaning potential Saracens vs. Leicester; and Wasps vs. Chiefs semi-finals).

A whole bag-full of permutations could take place and, with all matches scheduled to kick-off at 16:00 local time (18h00 for us Saffas), you can be guaranteed there will be a helluva lot of flicking between channels on SuperSport this Saturday – who even needs Super Rugby?


Wasps v Saracens |  Saturday 6 May | Ricoh Arena | 18h00

To Win (80 Mins)
Wasps 4/10 | Draw 20/1 | Saracens 2/1


Wasps
At one stage the Londoners seemed to be runaway league-leaders, but a series of unconvincing performances has seen last year’s finalists, Exeter and Saracens, catching them up. As it stands, it is only the Wasps’ number of wins (16, two more than the Chiefs) that sees them sit one place above their rivals – indeed, both sides currently sit on 79 points apiece. Last weekend’s 32-13 away loss to the Harlequins was perhaps their most abysmal display this season, and it was marred by a lack of intensity and ill-discipline that saw two seasoned internationals in Joe Launchbury and Willie le Roux see yellow.

Coach, Dai Young would not have been a happy chappy, as that loss has now put them under enormous pressure to claim all four log-points against an experienced Saracens outfit this Saturday. Nevertheless, Wasps have some unbelievable talents amongst their backs, and a solid showing by their forwards should allow them to work some of the magic that seemed to desert them at the Stoop last Friday.

If this current crop of Wasps is serious about winning a first Premiership title since Ian McGeechan’s class of 2008 (and they really should be), then their experienced veterans will need to pull themselves together and front up this weekend. A win will guarantee them a home semi, and perhaps a home final, and they will have no excuse for a lack of intensity this time around. They owe it to themselves to pull this off.



Saracens
While Wasps have found themselves stumbling of late, another London club contrarily seems to have hit a sort of purple-patch. 'Sarries' are unbeaten in their last six, and go into this almighty affair off the back of a hard-fought 27-9 win at home to Bristol. Their domestic season seemed to be going off the rails when many of their internationals were called up for Six Nations duty, but they have slowly and steadily regained their feet and, no matter what happens this weekend, will know that they have still managed to come within a few log-points of two clubs having “their best seasons in years”, despite their troubles. This is testament to the class and pedigree Mark McCall has at his disposal.

This Saturday’s Ricoh Arena showdown may well become known as one of Saracens’ most impressive wins in years to come, with a victory guaranteeing them second-place at the very least in what really has been a very average season for the men-in-black. That being said, they will still need to turn up, and the side with no less than six British & Irish Lions can’t afford to let the likes of Kurtley Beale and friends showcase their skills.

Verdict: Wasps 4/10
There may be an unreal amount of exceptional backs on display this Saturday, but this game really will be won and lost up front. Wasps have proved to horrendously incapable of playing good football when their forwards have been on the back-foot this season, and Saracens will be wary of silencing their brilliant backliners by putting the Wasps' big men under pressure. However, that being said, I do feel as though Wasps are overdue a big performance, and so I’m backing them to edge this one and finish the round-robin stages in first.

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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