Saturday afternoon’s extravaganza at Wembley Stadium might set a new world record for a club match along with featuring entertainment from McFly, but the result here matters greatly.
Following the Rugby World Cup, Saracens have gradually chipped away at the impressive gap between first-placed Harlequins and the rest of the Aviva Premiership, meaning that ahead of this weekend a win would move them top for the first time this season. Two narrow losses in their last four Premiership games mean that the rise to summit could have happened sooner, but with the England contingent now back in camp and a heavy thrashing of Sale last Friday night under their belts, the time seems to have come.
Except Harlequins are hardly struggling for form. Maurie Fa’asavalu’s match-winner against Bath brought the league leaders their first victory in three Premiership matches, but they have only lost three times out of 18 games this season. With England captain Chris Robshaw back in the ranks alongside one of the season’s form players in Mike Brown, they will also be far stronger.
But the trump card rapidly chasing the top two are Leicester. Three bonus point wins in their last three matches, only one loss in their last 12 Premiership matches, their victory over London Irish last weekend summed up the quality of their side. They were made to work, conceded 32 points away from home, yet still came away from the Madejski Stadium with another five pointer having given the opposition nothing. When their tight five perform as they did on Sunday, they are arguably without peer in the league.
By Saturday morning, Saracens may find themselves third after Leicester take on Worcester on Friday night. Whilst Northampton and Exeter are chasing hard, these three sides are emerging as the three big title contenders come the final in May. The question is, who will go the distance.
by Ben Coles