How are the teams getting on so far?
Saracens are 3rd in the league after a surprise loss to Bath in Round Two, aside from that it has been business as usual as they have recorded comfortable wins in all other match ups. A fifty-five point humbling of Northampton in the opening week and a 7-29 defeat of Newcastle in Newcastle are the highlights of their early results.
Wasps on the other hand have had a far shakier start to the season. Opening victories against Sale and Worcester have been followed by three defeats on the bounce, compared to four in the league for the entirety of last season. They’ve not performed to expectations so far and will be under pressure to put that right.
What to get excited about:
Wasps pyrotechnics vs Saracens execution – It will be a showdown of two differing rugby philosophies as these teams meet. Wasps, who are known for their attacking intent, will be willing to run the ball from anywhere and are justified in doing so with the likes of Christian Wade, Elliot Daly and Marcus Watson in their back line. Saracens on the other hand, while possessing the ability to play themselves, will generally rely on the ability of Richard Wigglesworth and Owen Farrell to control territory while trusting their defence to stifle Wasps’ dangerous attack.
Second row-down – Wasps captain Joe Launchbury may have been the unluckiest player not to be selected for the British & Irish Lions Tour last summer. He is a genuinely world-class lock who not only has a superhuman work-rate but also contributes in almost every facet of the game that a second-row can reasonable be expected to. Wasps fans will be hoping that he can prove a point against the Saracens engine room, who will probably contain two of Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Nick Isiekwe. Itoje and Kruis (who were both selected for The Lions ahead of Launchbury) have been England’s first choice lock partnership for the majority of Eddie Jones’ tenure, although they will be under heavy pressure from Launchbury and the magnificent Courtney Lawes. Isiekwe on the other hand has been fast-tracked into the England squad, despite still being in his teens and will want to prove that he can mix it with the best, should Kruis or Itoje be rested.
A Goode time to impress – With Mike Brown ruled out for the near-future it is the first time in what feels like forever that somebody else will have a chance to wear the fifteen shirt for England. Alex Goode, who has fallen out of favour with England despite long being lauded as one of the classier players in the Premiership, will be putting his hand up. Whereas Brown offers grit; security in defence and a cannon left book, Goode is a second playmaker with great positional awareness and a cultured kicking game. It is perhaps this difference in style that has prevented him from making more appearances for England, with Jones reluctant to reinvent the wheel by selecting him. If Goode can prove that he is the most accomplished fullback in the league in lieu of Brown it will make him increasingly different to ignore.
Prediction: While Wasps retain the ability to beat anybody because of the quality of their back line, recent form has not been convincing. Saracens are experts at stifling otherwise dangerous attacking outfits so I expect them to be too strong at home.