Saracens v Newcastle Falcons Premiership Preview

Saracens host Newcastle Falcons at Allianz Park

Saracens have named Jacques Burger to start in his final Aviva Premiership game of rugby before retiring from the sport as Saracens face Newcastle Falcons at Allianz Park

The legendary Namibian loose forward who announced earlier this week that he will hang up his boots after Sunday’s will don the Saracens number seven jersey for the final time in what promises to be an emotional afternoon at Allianz Park.

Burger is named alongside Michael Rhodes and Jackson Wray in the Sarries back row, whilst elsewhere in the pack, Richard Barrington is named at loosehead prop joining Jared Saunders (hooker) and Titi Lamositele (tighthead prop) in the front row. Maro Itoje is joined by Jim Hamilton at lock.

In the halves, Charlie Hodgson starts at fly-half alongside Neil De Kock (scrumhalf). At centre, Brad Barritt skippers the side in the number twelve jersey alongside Argentine international Marcelo Bosch.

In the back three, Alex Goode is rested at full-back and is replaced by Ben Ransom. Chris Ashton and Chris Wyles both start on the wings.

Saracens have already qualified for a seventh straight semi-final spot and have won their last five matches in all tournaments since their defeat at Leicester in round 17 of Aviva Premiership Rugby.

A Newcastle Falcons victory would ensure their safety from the threat of relegation.

The Falcons have not won away from home in Aviva Premiership Rugby since a trip to London Welsh in October 2014, although they did draw 15-all at Sale in November.

Saracens have won their last 13 fixtures against the Falcons in all tournaments since Newcastle’s 13-9 victory at Kingston Park in February 2009.

The Falcons only victory on Saracens soil since 2001 came on a trip to Vicarage Road on 30th December 2007.

All but one of the Newcastle match-day 23 are English-qualified, Taione Vea the exception as the in-form Tongan keeps his place at tight-head prop.

Will Welch skippers a side showing five changes from the one which defeated London Irish in their last outing – a result which leaves the Falcons seven points clear of the Exiles at the foot of the table going into the penultimate round of the season.

Front-row coach Micky Ward said: “Spirits are pretty high in the camp but the job isn’t finished yet.

“We are not mathematically safe but we are in a far better position than London Irish, and a far better position than we were a couple of weeks ago. We are nearly over the line and it is down to us now. It is in our own hands, we can decide it this weekend by taking points at Saracens and putting it beyond all doubt.

“Mental strength is something we talk about a lot here. It is not just the physical side, it is sticking to our systems under pressure, doing the things we talk about during the week and making sure we put into place the plans we have laid. We did a lot of that against London Irish, we knew where they would attack us and we did a pretty decent job of coping with that in difficult conditions.”

Well aware of the challenge which awaits them at the league leaders but determined to show no fear, Ward added: “Technically we need to stick to our systems, and we have got to go down there with a mind-set and an intensity to really just fly into them.

“I don’t think Saracens will respect us as much as they do an Exeter and those kinds of teams, and our forward pack has got to pile into them. We know the scrum will be a big area, we need to match them there confrontationally and also in the maul and the breakdown.

“We can have the best attacking shape in the world but if we can’t win the ball at the set-piece and breakdown it is a waste of time. We need to be physically and mentally on it, and basically just smash into them at every opportunity.”

Match : Saracens v Newcastle Falcons
Date : Sunday 1 May
Venue : Allianz Park,
Kick Off : 3.15pm
Live on: BT Sport
Match Officials
Referee :Ian Tempest (18th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Phil Watters & Roy Maybank.
TMO: David Grashoff.

Teams

Saracens

15 Ben Ransom, 14 Chris Ashton , 13 Marcelo Bosch , 12 Brad Barritt (c) , 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson , 9 Neil De Kock ,1 Richard Barrington , 2 Jared Saunders, 3 Titi Lamositele, 4 Maro Itoje , 5 Jim Hamilton, 6 Michael Rhodes , 7 Jacques Burger , 8 Jackson Wray,

Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits , 17 Mako Vunipola , 18 Juan Figallo , 19 Hayden Smith , 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Richard Wigglesworth , 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Nick Tompkins

Newcastle Falcons

15 Simon Hammersley , 14 Alex Tait , 13 Chris Harris , 12 Adam Powell , 11 Marcus Watson , 10 Craig Willis , 9 Michael Young , , 1 Rob Vickers , 2 George McGuigan , 3 Taione Vea , 4 Mouritz Botha , 5 Sean Robinson , 6 Will Welch (captain) , 7 Dan Temm , 8 Mark Wilson

Replacements :16 Rob Hawkins , 17 Alex Rogers , 18 Andrew Foster , 19 Calum Green , 20 Richard Mayhew , 21 Ruki Tipuna , 22 Tom Catterick , 23 Tom Penny

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