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Talking points ahead of the Premiership final between Leicester and Saracens
Tigers have won the title eight times while Saracens are chasing a sixth crown.
Leicester and Saracens will contest the Gallagher Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday in a heavyweight collision between two English rugby giants.
Tigers have won the title eight times but their last triumph was nine years ago, while Saracens are chasing a sixth crown after returning to the Premiership this season.
Here, the PA news agency assesses some key talking points heading into the game.
Saracens back on the big stage
It is 468 days since Saracens were ambushed by the Cornish Pirates in Penzance after being banished to Championship rugby following repeated salary cap breaches that were punished with a £5.36milion fine and relegation from English rugby’s top flight. While Saracens are still despised by many rugby fans for their actions, others feel they have done their time and life goes on. Either way, they kept all their star players, regrouped and will now contest an eighth Premiership final at the culmination of a domestic season when it looked as though Mark McCall’s team had never really been away.
Tigers hunting Premiership silverware again
Even the most fanatical Leicester supporter probably needs to blink twice when gauging Tigers’ revival under head coach Steve Borthwick. Leicester finished 11th in the Premiership in 2019 and 2020, winning just 13 of their 44 league games across those two campaigns. Saracens’ relegation spared them making the drop in 2020, but Borthwick has managed an astounding recovery act. This season, they won all their Premiership homes games, went top of the table in September and stayed there for nine months. They are back in the domestic final after nine years away and victory on Saturday would represent an inspiring feelgood story.
Ford versus Farrell
With over 3,000 Premiership points and more than 170 England caps between them, fly-halves George Ford and Owen Farrell – arguably the Premiership’s two most influential players – go head to head at Twickenham. It will be Ford’s Leicester farewell before he heads to Sale later this summer, and he has played a dominant role as Tigers topped the regular-season league table by seven points from Saracens. Saracens star Farrell, meanwhile, is his club’s proven architect behind winning big games, and while many sub-plots will undoubtedly unfold in the final, it is difficult to look beyond Ford or Farrell running the show.
Front-row warriors ready for battle
Set-piece domination, as ever, will be critical to the outcome at Twickenham, and both clubs boast powerful scrummaging units. Leicester skipper Ellis Genge, in his final Tigers game ahead of a summer move to Bristol, Argentina international Julian Montoya and Genge’s fellow England international the 95 times-capped Dan Cole have proved pivotal to Leicester’s success this season. However, Saracens also possess a supreme front-row in Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and South African World Cup winner Vincent Koch. With a match-day temperature of 27C forecast, expect the scrummaging heat to approach furnace levels.
Eddie Jones keeping fingers crossed
England head coach Eddie Jones will name his squad on Monday for a three-Test tour of Australia that starts in just 15 days’ time. Jones has already lost injured quartet Manu Tuilagi, Henry Slade, Kyle Sinckler and Sam Simmonds from his plans, with a final fixture against the Barbarians on Sunday still to negotiate before departure Down Under. The Premiership final could see at least a dozen of Jones’ likely tour group in action, including several headline acts, so he can only keep his fingers crossed that the casualty count does not increase.