Sport Rugby

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Saints to march on

Schalk Brits, Saracens
Schalk Brits, Saracens

Chris Hewitt

It is hard to think of a player who revels in the joy of rugby more obviously than Schalk Brits, so when the Saracens hooker refers to today's Premiership final with Northampton as a "grudge match", you can bet that the relationship between the two strongest clubs in England is based on something darker than love, affection and mutual understanding.

The Premiership is fiercely competitive, full of stresses and strains between age-old rivals, such as Gloucester and Bath. Sadly for those who resent the game's embrace of political correctness, these feuds have not been fought on the biggest stage, as Leicester Tigers have invariably made it through to the final.

By beating the Tigers by a single point in a classic semi-final a fortnight ago, Northampton performed the not inconsiderable service of giving the showpiece occasion the fresh face it has craved for years.

Hence Brits' take on today's resumption of hostilities, and the South African is sure to find himself at the centre of things. Not only has Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley recovered from a shoulder injury, but there is also the small matter of Alex Corbisiero, the best loosehead prop in Europe, to consider.

Saracens will fear his presence, not because the experienced tighthead Matt Stevens will find it impossible to subdue him, but because of the hole left by Mako Vunipola on the other side of the front-row – Vunipola has a dislocated kneecap.

There is a sense the Londoners are a little more beaten-up than their opponents – a number of key players have all been struggling with injury in recent weeks – and that their spirits are lower as a consequence of the Heineken Cup loss.

If this proves to be the case and the Saints' big-occasion players perform to their level, there could well be a new name on the Premiership trophy by this evening. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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