Saracens v Newcastle, Aviva Premiership, March 27
Sarries out to ground Falcons
March 25, 2011
David Strettle returns for Saracens © Getty Images
Saracens take on Newcastle at Vicarage Road on Sunday, with the Watford-based side out to further press their claims for a home semi-final in the Aviva Premiership.
They are up against a Falcons side still licking their wounds after last weekend's hammering by Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final, a game that ended a promising run of three wins.
Saracens are fresh from beating Leicester at Welford Road and carry into the game plenty of form, having won their last five domestic fixtures.
Saracens - Player to Watch: Andy Saull has been in good form of late and the scavenger will again want to use his pace and breakdown nous to put the Falcons under pressure.
Saracens - Team News: Former England prop Matt Stevens gets his second start for the club at loose-head, while Hayden Smith has been drafted into the second-row alongside skipper Steve Borthwick. In the backs, Neil de Kock and James short return at scrum-half and wing respectively, while Chris Wyles fills in at outside-centre.
Newcastle - Player to Watch: Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth was one of the Falcons off their game last weekend and will want to banish that display with a return to top form.
Newcastle - Team News: Tom Catterick comes in at fullback with Alex Tait switching to the wing at the expense of Luke Fielden. Luke Eves moves from the other wing to outside-centre with Tane Tu'ipulotu dropping to the bench and as a result Rikki Sheriffe gets a call-up out wide. Chris Pilgrim gets the nod at scrum-half while tight-head James Hall is promoted from the bench. In the only other change to the pack, Will Welch will pack down at openside.
Key Battle: Newcastle's set-piece emerged with some credit in last weekend's mauling at the hands of Gloucester but their lineout is set to face some intense scrutiny against Saracens. Expect the second-row match-up between Saracens' Steve Borthwick and Hayden Smith and Newcastle's James Hudson and Andrew van der Heijden to prove pivotal.
Trivia: Saracens' only home defeat in the Premiership since last February was 9-23 to Exeter Chiefs on October 30.
Stats: Sarries wing David Strettle has beaten more defenders than any other player this season - 23.
"They've had some decent results in Premiership in the past few weeks and it's put a bit if daylight between them and Leeds at the bottom of the table. We know they have some talented players and it's going to be a tough game." - Saracens' Adam Powell is not taking the Falcons lightly
"The Premiership is a key area for us now and securing our premiership status is our No. 1 goal and that's what we're going for." - Falcons head coach Alan Tait switches focus in the wake of his side's Cup disappointment.
Fantasy: Saracens wing David Strettle was in action for England last weekend, will he make an impact this time around? And is he in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game team?
Prediction: Newcastle have shown some form of late but will come up short against a Sarries side gunning for a home semi-final.
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