This year’s Premiership final marks the end of an era. It has been ten years since Leicester Tigers failed to appear in the end of season showpiece and this season’s final will feature the two best teams from the regular season: Saracens and Northampton Saints.
The sides experienced mixed fortunes in their respective European finals last weekend – Northampton won the Amlin Cup while Saracens lost out to Toulon in the Heineken Cup – and it promises to be a terrific occasion at Twickenham.
Keep reading for our betting preview.
European finalists bid for domestic title
Since Christmas, there has been one outstanding team in the league. Saracens only defeat in Aviva Premiership Rugby in their last ten games came at Leicester in round 22 and the Londoners have scored at least one try in 36 of their last 37 Premiership matches. This run included a win over their rivals in the final, Northampton, as recently as 13 April.
Northampton are bidding to become the eighth different side to become champions of England, having never win the title before. A win at Twickenham will also see Northampton become the first team since Wasps in 2003 to attain a Premiership and European Challenge Cup double.
This is the first time that the two clubs have met at Twickenham, and also the first time they have met in any final. They have clashed in eight previous quarter-finals or semi-finals in tournaments, with Saracens winning just twice.
Twickenham experience could be crucial
They have been the two best teams in the league this season but it is Saracens’ Twickenham experience that could prove crucial. The Saints have just two victories in seven previous finals played at Twickenham and the most recent of those was against Exeter in the National Trophy in 2008.
Sarries have won on five of their last seven visits to Twickenham in all tournaments including the Premiership final in 2011. In addition, fly half Owen Farrell has lots of experience of playing at HQ wand this could be critical. Twickenham is a big pitch and the best final performances are often by sides that use its wide, open spaces early on in the match.
Saying that, Saracens have lost four of their past five matches to Northampton and their last two victories against the Saints have been by narrow margins. The two Northampton second rows, Courtney Lawes and Samu Manoa, could have a huge influence on the game while Saints have plenty of pace out wide in the form of George North, Ken Pisi and Ben Foden.
Saracens centre Brad Barritt says: “We are desperate to finish the season with a trophy. If we achieve that, we will be able to reflect on a very successful campaign.
“It will take a concerted effort, but we are as hungry as ever. We were not that far off against Toulon, it was just minor things in the game. A big strength of this team is the way we bounce back and we have to show that this week.”
It promises to be a terrific match and Northampton are coming in on the back of their excellent win over Leicester Tigers in the semi-final and their Amlin Cup triumph. However, Saracens have simply been the best team in the league in 2014 and I expect them to overcome a 3 point handicap and win at 10/11.
The last time the Heineken Cup final was held in Dublin it featured two French teams. Toulouse beat Perpignan on that occasion, and with the Top 14’s two leading sides in action this weekend it could be another all-French affair this May.
The Heineken Cup has reached the quarter final stage and sees three sides from France, three from England and two from Ireland battling it out to reach the last four.
The Irish sides both face tough away trips to English opposition while two strong French sides will expect to reach the semi-finals with home advantage.
Six Nations match preview – 23/24 February 2013
The third round of Six Nations matches kick off this weekend and there are three intriguing ties to look forward to. England continue their Grand Slam challenge with a match against bottom of the table France with a leading newspaper reporting French rugby was ‘in tatters’.
The Heineken Cup has now become the competition to win in world club rugby. It’s the eighteenth season of the tournament and twenty four sides from across Europe begin their campaign in November on the long road to Dublin in May 2013.
The Roy Hodgson era begins on Saturday as the former West Brom coach takes charge of England for the first time. His first outing is a tricky away fixture in Norway who are an excellent 12/5 chance to give our boys ‘one hell of a beating’.
The Champions League final takes centre stage this Saturday as Bayern Munich face Chelsea. If Chelsea can manage to scrape a side together – remember that many of their first choice players are injured or suspended – they are 10/3 to win their first European Cup. Bayern Munich have home advantage but were humbled 5-2 by Borussia Dortmund in last week’s German Cup final.
It’s the 17th Heineken Cup Final this weekend and it’s an all Irish affair as Leinster face Ulster. You’d have got long odds on this match-up before the tournament began, with Ulster ranked as 66/1 outsiders to lift the trophy back in November.
Leinster are in their third final in four years and are favourites to become the first team to retain the Cup since the Leicester Tigers in 2002. However, could Ulster upset the odds at Twickenham on Saturday?
Chelsea face Liverpool in the Wembley showpiece and the Blues are the 7/5 favourites.