Saracens vs Wasps Preview

Spread the love

This weekend sees the reigning Premiership and European champions hosting the current form team in Europe. It’s the unstoppable force of Wasps versus the immovable rock of Saracens.

Saracens v Wasps Preview

Wasps travel south with one of the most expansive (not to mention expensive) backlines Europe has ever seen and a pack that is much improved. There they will meet the impeccable Saracens pack and a resolute backline.

Or at least that’s the narrative.

Over the last season or two, Saracens have moved away from their famed defence and into a more expansive game. The big failure of the 14/15 season for Sarries was an inability to rack up try bonus points and they set about remedying this by playing a more open game last year. In fact Sarries scored only one fewer try bonus points last season than Wasps’ nine (the league best).

When you factor in that the two teams have 17 England EPS members between them as well as a whole host of other internationals, it is certainly fair to say that this is a huge fixture and one which has the potential to be as good as any Champions Cup fixtures and some test matches.

Wasps handed Saracens by far their most embarrassing defeat at Allianz Park in a visit last season, leaving with a resounding eight tries in a 64-23 victory.

So what are the chances of a repeat this year?

In the opening five matches Wasps have scored 26 tries, 196 points and shipped only 97. They sit unbeaten at the top of the table and most recently put seven tries past a Harlequins side, who had beaten Saracens only a week before. Saracens are sitting second have scored 17 tries, 145 points and conceded just 45.

Despite Wasps having scored nine tries more than Saracens, both have the same number of try bonus points (three) as well as good victories over last seasons finalists Exeter Chiefs.

All of which suggests that we won’t be seeing such a demolition this time around. There should be firecrackers though.

What to Watch Out For

Exeter’s Jack Nowell stated earlier in the season that their analysis showed Saracens were vulnerable after six or so phases – the consensus being that the aggressive nature of Saracens’ wolfpack defence leaves gaps once it’s reached this point.

Wasps tend though to score early phase tries, utilizing their fast outside backs, particularly off of quick turnovers. This was summed up in Wasps’ comprehensive victory over ‘Quins when they had less than 40% possession.

Will Wasps be able to get outside the Saracens blitz defence, or will they get turned over and not be able to secure enough phases to find the space required?

Head to Heads

Vunipola vs Hughes

A battle of the England 8’s. Billy Vunipola is the focal point of the brutal Saracens pack whereas Nathan Hughes has been overshadowed by Guy Thompson so far this season (who has seized his chance with both hands). This shouldn’t detract from the incumbent England 8 and the main challenger for his shirt. Both are brilliant ball carriers and regularly score highly in defenders beaten, Hughes has more flatline speed but Vunipola has gone to new heights in the last year and is fast becoming world class.

Barritt v Gopperth

With Kurtley Beale, Kyle Eastmond and Danny Cipriani signing no-one would have predicted the form Jimmy Gopperth has shown this year. His shift to 12 has seemingly freed him to show all round gameplay that few had seen before and his try scoring exploits have been impressive.

In the absence of Saracens and England fly half Owen Farrell, Gopperth will be the best goal kicker on the field and could be the game changer. His opposite number is the Saracens captain and defensive leader, Brad Barritt‘s task will be to stop the electric Wasps backs opposite. If Saracens are successful in spoiling the Wasps game plan then Barritt will be key.

George v Taylor

There’s a good chance that Jamie George might not start but he is one of best hookers in the premiership and fighting hard with Luke Cowan-Dickie as Dylan Hartley‘s England understudy. Tommy Taylor‘s arrival from Sale was overshadowed by the signing of Cirpriani, but he was arguably the better addition. Ashley Johnson underwhelmed at two last season and Taylor brings one of the most complete skill-sets to the position. Both men are very good lineout operators, who bring a lot around the field. Taylor has a prodigious work rate and George showed his skill with a fantastic grubber kick on the tour to Australia. This head to head is another which will no doubt be of great interest to Eddie Jones.

Conclusion

It’s too close to call. Wasps look to be in better form but Saracens have both home field advantage and the best defence in the league. Certainly one to savour.

 

“Main Photo:”