European semi-finalists Saracens and Harlequins travel to Wembley for this Saturday’s all London Aviva Premiership clash. With more than 77,000 tickets sold, the fixture will be played amidst a raucous atmosphere should flowing attacking rugby be played. Indeed Quins will be hoping that they will be the side doing most of the attacking, for in order for them to hold any hopes of making the play off stages of the competition they simply need to notch up a win. However considering that Quins have managed only one win in their last four fixtures at the home of English football and their wayward away form which has seen them fail to win on the road since January 3, the odds looked stacked against them. Nonetheless they did manage to inflict a rare defeat on Sarries in their last meeting this season, a tight 29-23 win and will undoubtedly be desperate to do the same again.
Saracens on the other hand, since the return of their England internationals, have managed to regain the form that saw them lead the Premiership table so emphatically earlier on in the season. That said they are only 3 points above Exeter in first, and with the Chiefs facing a fragile Gloucester side they will be more than keen to make sure they secure their position at the top of the table. They will seek confidence in the statistic that they have lost only three times in their thirteen outings at Wembley, a record which means that the giant stadium really can be seen as a second home for the Watford based side. Moreover they face a Quins side shorn of a number of starting players including the majestic Nick Evans, former Australia captain James Horwill, both suffering from leg injuries and England Grand-Slam winner Joe Marler who misses due to his suspension for his words to Samson Lee in the Six Nations.
Saracens, captained this week by Billy Vunipola, welcome Jim Hamilton back into the fold who replaces Maro Itoje: rested for his sterling efforts against Northampton. Marcelo Bosch also returns to the side to partner Duncan Taylor in the midfield and he will be hoping for quick service from Premiership grandee and master of the pass, Charlie Hodgson. Neil De Kock also returns and takes the place of Richard Wigglesworth.
Quins despite their absentee list, still play a strong side with particular strength emanating from the international class of their backrow forwards and backline. Chris Robshaw, Nick Easter, Marland Yarde, Mike Brown, Tim Visser, Jamie Roberts and Danny Care all start.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 George Kruis,4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola (c)
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Hayden Smith, 20 Samu Vunisa, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Nick Tompkins
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 Nick Easter, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Sam Twomey, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Matt Hopper, 23 Ross Chisholm
Last fixture: Saracens 29-20 Northampton
Last Fixture: Harlequins 38-30 London Irish
Prediction: Saracens to win by 7
By Charles Dew