Saracens v Sale, Aviva Premiership, September 12
Saracens look to bounce back
September 10, 2010
Sale's Sisa Koyamaibole is shackled by Newcastle's Jon Golding last Friday night © Getty Images
Saracens will be looking to get their season back on track against Sale at Vicarage Road on Sunday having hit a London Irish-sized speed bump in their opener last weekend.
Brendan Venter's side were looking to exorcise the ghosts of their final defeat at the hands of the Leicester a few short months ago but were again on the losing side at Twickenham with the Exiles claiming a deserved 33-16 victory. In contrast, Sale Sharks offered more bite than arguably at any stage last season in despatching Newcastle Falcons 35-18 at Edgeley Road.
With international fly-half Charlie Hodgson sidelined for the first month of the season with a shoulder injury there were fears that the Sharks would be exposed but Nick Mcleod stepped to fill the void and deliver a reassuring display. The same could not be said for Saracens' Alex Goode who failed to shine on his first outing in the No.10 shirt. Sarries showed only glimpses of their best form at HQ and will need to raise their game if they are to extend their three-game unbeaten run against the Sharks.
Saracens - Player to Watch: Brad Barritt was among Saracens' more promising performers last Saturday and the centre will be hoping to maintian his claims for an England spot with another bustling display.
Saracens - Team News: Saracens' chances are bolstered by the return to the bench following injury of lock Steve Borthwick, scrum-half Neil de Kock and wing David Strettle.
Sale - Player to Watch: Sale will be relying on the ball-carrying bulk and scrummaging aggression of Andrew Sheridan to take the fight to Saracens. The loose-head prop is getting ever closer to his best.
Sale - Team News: Sale coach Mike Brewer welcomed back Mark Cueto and Eifion Roberts from injury and both take their places on the bench. Kiwi back-row star Kristian Orsmby misses out with a knee problem.
Key Battle: The fly-half showdown is always one to keep an eye on and this game is no exception. The in-form Macleod enters the clash having bagged a hatful of points against Newcastle while opposite number Goode needs to prove he really is the man to fill the Saracens No.10 shirt.
Trivia: Fresh from his Tri-Nations duty, referee Wayne Barnes will be back on Premiership duty at Vicarage Road.
Stats: Saracens have won their last three encounters with the Sharks, whilst Sale have won just once in 14 previous visits to Vicarage Road - a 40-32 win on September 25, 2005
"Everyone in the squad was disappointed with the result last week. We didn't play well as individuals which meant we didn't perform as a team. But we've been through that, learned the lessons and moved on." - Saracens head coach Brendan Venter
"Saracens will be hurting. I know Brendan [Venter] - he's a very proud man. They're going to have that little bit more edge. Their accuracy levels are going to be high. We're going down there with a game plan and we think we can beat them. It's about us stopping them playing." - Sale head coach Mike Brewer
Fantasy: Sale's Nick Macleod could have bagged you a healthy 14 points last weekend while Saracens hooker Schalk Brits got off to a flyer with seven. Click here to get involved.
Prediction: Saracens' high-paced off-loading game to prove too much for Sale as the Sarries hit their stride in front of their home fans.
Note: For UK users, ESPN is free-to-air this weekend. Between today and the early hours of Monday morning the channel is unscrambled, so you can watch live coverage of Leicester v Exeter on Saturday and Saracans v Sale on Sunday. It can be found on Sky channels 417 and 442 (HD) and Virgin media 529 and 530. Click here for more information.