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Aviva Premiership
Old foes collide in final four
ESPN Staff
May 17, 2014
Harlequins take on Saracens on Saturday for a place in the Aviva Premeriship final © Getty Images
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The four leading clubs in the Aviva Premiership must be whittled down to two this weekend as Saracens, Northampton, Leicester and Harlequins contest the semi-finals. After a long season of thrills and spills, just 80 minutes stands between two of them and a shot at Twickenham glory.

ESPN brings you a preview of all of the action as the oldest of enemies clash in the Premiership semi-finals.

Saracens v Harlequins

Saturday, Allianz Park, 2.00pm

Form: Saracens (home) WWWWL ; Harlequins (away) WWLLL

Team News

Saracens have been the dominant force in Premiership rugby this season, winning game after game in ruthless fashion. The shine on the halo might have dimmed slightly after Saturday's defeat by Leicester, but Sarries will be back to full strength for the clash with Harlequins and aiming for a third victory over their London rivals this term.

While their opponents have been sitting pretty at the top of the Premiership, Harlequins have had to work hard just to reach the semi-finals. A narrow 19-16 victory over Bath on the last day of the season saw them sneak into fourth after a stop-start campaign from a squad packed full of England stars. Quins' tails will be up after their late surge into the play-offs, but their record against Saracens is poor this season, with the 39-17 defeat at Wembley in March a particularly painful memory.

With the Heineken Cup looming, Saracens are going to be busy boys in the next seven days and, while it might be clutching at straws, the distraction of Europe could play into Harlequins' hands. Will the likes of Jacques Burger, Schalk Brits and Brad Barritt want to go flying into tackles with their usual ludicrous levels of commitment, knowing an injury could keep them out of the Heineken Cup final? Realistically Quins know the answer to that, but they will need all the belief they can get ahead of Saturday's semi.

  • Saracens' only home defeat this season came against London Irish in February.
  • Harlequins won the last match between the two in a knock-out competition - a Pilkington Cup quarter-final in 1997.


Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers

Friday, Franklin's Gardens, 7.45pm, BT Sport

Form: Northampton Saints (home) WWLWW ; Leicester Tigers (away) WLWWW

Team News

Is there a bigger rivalry in Premiership rugby? Northampton host Leicester at Franklin's Gardens in what is sure to be a battle of monumental proportions.

The Saints have unfinished business when it comes to Premiership shoot-outs against their East Midlands rivals. Last season they were the losers at Twickenham as the two clubs contested a fiery grand final, which saw Saints captain Dylan Hartley sent off for swearing at referee Wayne Barnes. The talisman will not be part of Jim Mallinder's squad for Friday's clash due to a shoulder injury, but the memories of last year's final will still run raw in the Northampton dressing room.

For all their struggles early on this season, Leicester came through the final two months like a steam train. Ominously for the Saints, the Tigers are the only team to have won at Franklin's Gardens this season and are gunning for a remarkable tenth consecutive Premiership final. Leicester's last outing saw them defeat an albeit weakened Saracens side at Welford Road and star performers such as Manu Tuilagi have upped their game at just the right time.

Never one to shy away from a scrap, Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill has poured petrol on the fire by insisting the "pressure is all on Northampton". With Northampton failing to beat the Tigers in their last 10 encounters, it remains to be seen whether the Saints will be able to take their revenge for last year's final defeat.

  • Northampton's last league outing saw them hammer Wasps by 61 points in a 74-13 victory.
  • Leicester have won eight out of eight Premiership semi-finals.


Saracens v Harlequins

Saturday, Allianz Park, 2.00pm

Form: Saracens (home) WWWWL ; Harlequins (away) WWLLL

Team News

Saracens have been the dominant force in Premiership rugby this season, winning game after game in ruthless fashion. The shine on the halo might have dimmed slightly after Saturday's defeat by Leicester, but Sarries will be back to full strength for the clash with Harlequins and aiming for a third victory over their London rivals this term.

While their opponents have been sitting pretty at the top of the Premiership, Harlequins have had to work hard just to reach the semi-finals. A narrow 19-16 victory over Bath on the last day of the season saw them sneak into fourth after a stop-start campaign from a squad packed full of England stars. Quins' tails will be up after their late surge into the play-offs, but their record against Saracens is poor this season, with the 39-17 defeat at Wembley in March a particularly painful memory.

With the Heineken Cup looming, Saracens are going to be busy boys in the next seven days and, while it might be clutching at straws, the distraction of Europe could play into Harlequins' hands. Will the likes of Jacques Burger, Schalk Brits and Brad Barritt want to go flying into tackles with their usual ludicrous levels of commitment, knowing an injury could keep them out of the Heineken Cup final? Realistically Quins know the answer to that, but they will need all the belief they can get ahead of Saturday's semi.

  • Saracens' only home defeat this season came against London Irish in February.
  • Harlequins won the last match between the two in a knock-out competition - a Pilkington Cup quarter-final in 1997.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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