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Preview: Premiership Final

Fri, 30 May 2014 06:23
Saracens-v-saints
The whole squad want to finish this season with a bang
Quote-end

Northamption Saints will be gunning for a double when they face beaten European Cup finalists Saracens in the Premiership Final at Twickenham on Saturday.

Having beaten Bath in the European Challenge Cup Final last week Saints face a tough final hurdle against a Saracens side that topped the Premiership log and will be hungry to bounce back after their defeat to Toulon in Cardiff last week.

Brad Barritt insists Saracens can finish the season "with a bang" following their disappointing 23-6 defeat by a star-studded Toulon at the Millennium Stadium.

It has still been a season to remember for the 27-year-old centre and his teammates having finished top of the Premiership table with a new regular season points record ahead of making the season's showpiece.

Last term, Saracens made the semifinals of both the Premiership and the European Cup but failed to reach the respective showpieces.

And England centre Barritt wants to mark their sensational season with silverware this time around.

"A few words were said in the changing room afterwards (following the defeat against Toulon) and the whole squad want to finish this season with a bang.

"There is going to be a huge concerted effort from all the boys to make that happen.

"We have had a very successful season, this is a hiccup and we will get back on the horse," he added.

George North admits that watching Northampton Saints lose the Premiership Final last year was tough, but is now using that disappointment as inspiration for the side's second bite of the cherry.

The Welsh wing moved to Franklin's Gardens for the opportunities to win more silverware, and that goal was achieved when Saints defeated Bath in the Challenge Cup Final last Friday.

But having agreed on the move across the River Severn in April last year, North then had to watch his future teammates lose 37-17 to Leicester Tigers in the Premiership decider the following month.

"It was gutting to watch how Saints lost the final last season, but it's a new game this year, it's a whole new team that we are playing against in the final," he said.

"It's tough for Saracens to lose in the European Cup final, but the fact of the matter is that Saracens have been such a dominant force in the Premiership all season.

"They've consistently been the best performing team in the league and we can't expect anything less than 100 per cent from them at the weekend.

"They lost out on some silverware last week but they've got another chance to win something before the end of the season."

Northampton's path through the Premiership playoffs was not a smooth one, coming from 6-17 behind to beat Leicester 21-20 in the semifinal.

It was a similar story in the Challenge Cup Final as Saints again recovered from a half-time deficit to storm past Bath 30-16 in Cardiff.

And North says that there is no room for a slow start against Saracens, a club that Saints have beaten three times this season in all competitions.

"It's Premiership final weekend and we can't leave anything out on the track. You've got to go full fat milk - flat out and as hard as you can - you only get one chance with a cup final," North said.

"Last Friday when we saw how much travelling support came down to Cardiff and how much the win meant to them, so I think this weekend will go up another level.

"It was hard enough to pick a team for last week's game, but now everyone is healthy and has put their hand up to play the selection will be even tougher."

Recent results:
2014: Saracens beat Northampton Saints 28-24
2013: Saracens beat Northampton Saints 13-27
2013: Northampton Saints beat Saracens 41-20  
2012: Saracens beat Northampton Saints 17-16  
2012: Northampton Saints beat Saracens 6-16  
2012: Saracens beat Northampton Saints 18-12  
2011: Northampton beat Saints Saracens 30-8

Prediction: Saracens feel they will have a point to prove after last week's disappointment and although Saints showed great resolve to come from behind and win their semifinal and the Challenge Cup, we feel that Saracens should do enough to win by about 10 points.

Teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Johnston, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.
 
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood (captain), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Christian Day, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 James Wilson, 23 Tom Stephenson.

Date: Saturday, May 31
Venue: Twickenham, London, 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes, Paul Dix
TMO: Graham Hughes

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