SARACENS v GLOUCESTER RUGBY
The newly crowned European Champions welcome the Cherry and Whites to Allianz Park on Saturday in a match that may not be as clear cut as it looks on paper.
Saracens will be overwhelming favourites and that is not going to be in any doubt but if Gloucester do play to their full potential then there is a strong possibility of them at least ruffling a few feathers in North London.
They have both beaten each other this season but the 50+ point beating that Sarries dished out on their opponents on the same ground earlier in the season, needs to be vanquished from the heads of the visitors if they are to stand any chance.
The juiciest battle will be between Owen Farrell and Danny Cipriani at fly half. Cipriani has just been named the Premiership Player of the season but Farrell is the current incumbent of the England Shirt that the Gloucester man so desires.
The controversial Number ten will have to bring a ten out of ten performance for this one but if he is starved of quick ball then he won’t be able to stamp his class and expansive extravagance on the game.
The home team will look to their world class forward pack to control the game though and cause as much damage as they can with destructive ball runners like Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Will Skelton.
The home advantage and confidence running through Saracens will make them a formidable opponent and in the second half I can’t see Gloucester being able to live with their intensity in both attack and defence.
SARACENS BY 17
EXETER CHIEFS v NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Top of the table Exeter and 4th placed Northampton meet for the second week in a row after the Sandy Park faithful witnessed a 19 point win for their team last weekend.
Exeter didn’t have that match all their own way though as the scores were level at half time, before overpowering their visitors in the second 40.
Exeter’s form has been a bit up and down in the last few weeks but the second half last weekend will give them the belief that this game will be a mere bump in the road on the way to Twickenham.
At home they move around their pitch better than anyone in the Premiership. Possession is nine tenths of the law and the Chiefs are more aware of that than most.
Their power game around the fringes can become impossible to defend but when they do move it wide the intelligence of players like Henry Slade and Jack Nowell to pick holes and run through gaps means that they can penetrate you from any where on the field.
Saints have made the playoffs with a measly 56 points, which was a full 30 behind the Chiefs but for that they will never be sorry.
Cobus Reinach has been the catalyst for their most impressive performances of the season and the Springbok scrum-half will need to be marshalled closely around the ruck to stop him sniping or getting at his opposite number.
Saints shouldn’t be written off by any stretch of the imagination due to the fact that they have potential match winners across the squad.
Dan Biggar, Courtney Lawes, Taqele Naiyarovoro and Luther Burrell have all been there, seen it and done it on the big occasion but the question will be whether their supporting cast can play at the same level.
The answer to that; it’s highly unlikely. The 30 point deficit in the league points total paints the picture for everyone to see.
There may a scare or two early on but the Chiefs will comfortably head up the M5 and M4 to Twickenham next weekend.
CHIEFS by 24