So there we have it.
After 9 months of gruelling rugby, the men’s Gallagher Premiership has found its two finalists. Saracens overcame Northampton on Saturday and Sale beat reigning champions Leicester on Sunday.
Saracens have looked imperious from the off this season. It started with victory over Harlequins away and they have stayed at the top of the table throughout, winning 15 of their 20 games. Mixing their ferocious ‘Wolfpack’ defence and blistering attack, there’s a reason they’re the bookies favourites (just!) to lift the trophy on the 27th May. Injuries have hampered Saracens in recent weeks (Billy Vunipola, Andy Christie and Theo McFarland) but Saturday proved they’re still strong. Ben Earle has (as always) had an outstanding season and his battle with the Sale back row will go a long way to deciding the result in the final. A notable absence will be Ben Curry following his injury; he will be hugely missed for both Sale and potentially England later in the year.
Sale have reached their first Premiership final in 17 years as Alex Sanderson takes his team to Twickenham to face his former club. Like Saracens, Sale have played fantastic rugby this season and have won 14 of their 20 games. Blessed with one of the most exciting squads in the Premiership, they can beat anyone on their day. They’ll be looking to their pack to dominate; Ford to control the game (which with it brings an intriguing matchup against long-time friend Farrell); Manu Tuilagi to be at his destructive best and Quirke to inject some pace later in the game. These names, along with the Du Preez brothers, show they have genuine game changers.
Saracens have a wealth of experience in these showpiece events (7 finals in the last 10 years) and will be licking their wounds having narrowly lost last year via a last-minute Freddie Burns drop goal. With star names such as Farrell, Itoje, George, Vunipola, Daly and Tompkins you’d expect them to add to their trophy cabinet and give Jackson Wray (the best player to never be capped?) a fairy tale goodbye. That being said, as last year showed, Premiership finals are anything but routine and come down largely to who can handle the pressure on the day. Sale won’t mind being slight underdogs, and Sanderson will make sure they won’t there to just make up the numbers. Could it be a perfect goodbye for club captain Jono Ross?
In a strange season in which we’ve sadly lost former European Champions Wasps, Worcester Warriors and now potentially London Irish, the final will bring the curtains down on a turbulent year for Premiership rugby.
In what’s set to be an extremely physical game won by the forwards, Samler's un-biased prediction – Saracens by 6.
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