Saracens host Leicester this weekend in their latest ‘Big Match’ at Wembley Stadium as they look to take revenge for their play-off semi-final to the Tigers last year at Welford Road (3.30pm BST, Saturday).
Saracens are currently without a ground as they wait for their new Allianz Park to be finished, which is thought to be early in the 2013. Until then Saracens are taking on a slightly nomadic role and are even playing their Heineken match against Parisian side Racing Metro in Brussels next month.
Saracens are once again hotly tipped to reach the play-offs. Having reached the final in 2010 and 2011, they will have been gutted to miss out last year. Saracens victory in 2011 was supposed to be the start of a dynasty according to Mark McCall and Brendan Venter and after failing to reach the Heineken Cup quarter-finals or Premiership final, they will be out to achieve both this year.
Saracens only real summer signing was England wing Chris Ashton and he has had an immediate impact, scoring three tries in his first two games for his new club. Saracens started the season with a thumping 40-3 win over London Irish at Twickenham, and they followed that with a closely fought away win at Sale last weekend to give them the perfect start to the season.
The greatest difficulty for Saracens at the moment is where to play England fly-half Owen Farrell. Charlie Hodgson started at fly-half and his goal kicking has been immaculate up to now. In the centres, fellow England international Brad Barritt has been partnered by rugby league convert Joel Tomkins. His pace, creativity and off-loading skills are essential to the balance of the Saracens midfield. If Farell is to come in, Tomkins will likely miss out, but that leaves Sarries with a bland midfield and one that not many teams will fear offensively.
Leicester look as strong as ever and, after losing their second final in a row last season, they will not settle for anything other than lifting the trophy next May at Twickenham. Leicester have started the season in fine form, especially in attack, having picked up try bonus points in both games so far.
They started with a thumping win over newly-promoted London Welsh. They then dished out the same to Worcester last weekend, with England centre Manu Tuilagi scoring two tries. Leicester did concede 26 points last weekend to Worcester and that will not have pleased coach Richard Cockerill.
Last season Leicester were by far and away the most attacking side in the Premiership, as they scored tries for fun, and it seems that Saracens have tried to take this lead, as already in the first two games they have looked to give the ball more air and attack from far deeper.
Match Betting Tips Verdict
Leicester won their semi-final 24-15 against Saracens last season. Once again the key will be if Saracens can outscore Leicester with a limited centre partnership in attacking positions. Take nothing away from Farrell and Barritt, but they are very defensively-minded players compared to Tuilagi and Bowden. In front of a potential world record crowd for a club rugby match, Sarries will need a huge game from hooker Schalk Brits if they are to turn Leicester over.