SThe Arakanese are favorites for Saturday’s premiership final but don’t underestimate the power of purpose. Everyone needs a purpose, it becomes their fuel, and the same can be said for every team. That’s not to say Saracens don’t have one, but what I love about this sales side is how clear their aim is – to put northern rugby back on the map. In that sense he is vitally important to the Premiership and I am very pleased he has made it to Twickenham.
Playing for something beyond yourself can be such a driving force. We saw it in 2019 with Rasi Erasmus building the narrative around South Africans for the Springboks and Sale will know he represents so many people as he is in the squad, in the changing room and Even in the stands. Leaning into that can be huge.
These are two evenly matched sides but the gulf is in experience. However, I don’t see SAIL youngsters like Aaron Reed, Tom Roebuck, Joe Carpenter and Gus Warr being deterred by the incident at Twickenham. He has proved himself to be an excellent player for this on a very consistent basis. That said, nothing can prepare you for the occasion like playing in it first and Saracens have someone who is preparing to start in their ninth premiership final in Alex Good. This is a remarkable figure.
It’s another trip to Twickenham for Saracens and it’s safe to say that the equipment are a bit sharper than last season when they did incredibly well to reach the final in their first season back in the Premiership. There should be no redemption story this year. Rather, it is an opportunity to celebrate a remarkably consistent season with a trophy. They have been models of excellence throughout the season, unbeaten at home, comfortably top of the table but they will know that nothing will matter if they don’t win the title. That should be what they are fighting for as opposed to any external noise or pressure.
There are mouth-watering skirmishes all over the pitch but for me the fight between the fly-half and the flankers stands out. The fly-half’s ability to influence proceedings depends on which direction his forward pack is traveling but we have two special number 10s in George Ford and Owen Farrell. For all the debate about who should start for England, I really hope we can appreciate the two of us for 80 minutes. They grew up together their entire rugby lives, so it’s no surprise they have a lot in common. The way they approach the game and analyze the game, they are the closest to being a player-coach on the pitch that you will find and it is a calming effect.
But there are differences. In attack, Ford has better feel and instinct for the game, but this is something Farrell has really developed. You look at their team and the extra gear they’ve got, it seems like Saracens has more freedom in attack and Owen has more freedom in himself. We are looking at two of England’s great fly-halves. They both played in the Premiership final at the age of 19 and there are more things that unite them than separate them. This is the day to celebrate both.
While both teams have suffered injuries to the back line, Ben Earl’s duel with Tom Curry will be explosive. Curry’s game in attack has really come into play over the years. I remember when England picked him at number 8 for the first time. His best position is 7th (even if he is 6th on Saturday) and I was wondering how he would manage but I saw him take that responsibility and become a better player. ball player and a superior ball carrier.
Earl, we know how dynamic and powerful he can be; He could look very comfortable in the centre. The closest we have to Levani Botia is not an exact comparison but he wouldn’t look out of place in the backline. It’s really a head-to-head thing because when you have two teams like this, and battle lines are drawn on the advantage line, whoever is able to win those physical exchanges and disrupt the attacking flow happens, he will eventually win this match. Enter main stage Ben Earl and Tom Curry.
The closer we get to the game, the more nervous I get and I’m not even playing. On Monday I said Saracens would win straight off the bat. Now the only reason I hesitate is that I have a lot of respect for salespeople, they are a quality side. Emotionally they will be in the right place but if there isn’t much between the teams then perhaps the difference in terms of experience in these kinds of matches will prove to be crucial in the end.