Last season’s beaten finalists, Saracens, welcome Northampton for their first game of this year’s Aviva Premiership. Both sides go into this season’s league on the back of some positivity – Saracens because they got to the final of last year’s tournament and managed to finish on top of the league during the regular season. Northampton, as they conquered both Connacht and Stade Francais to qualify for this year’s Champions Cup through the playoffs.
Now both sides will look at this opening fixture as an opportunity to lay down a marker and show their competitors what they’re made of. Northampton will be disappointed with their league position of seventh, so will be hoping to start their season brightly this time around.
Exeter managed to surprise Saracens in last year’s Aviva Premiership final. Nobody saw that result coming, as Sarries went into the game as the expert’s choice. The 16-18 result reflected on a tight game, which the better side won.
Of course, Saracens were lucky, but they will have been kicking themselves all summer after that missed opportunity. It will come as some consolation that they managed to win the Champions Cup and become the kings of European rugby. Their 28-17 victory in that game will have reassured their fans that they are in fact one of Europe’s top sides and deserve their place among the best teams in the Aviva Premiership.
The Saints are making a habit of squeezing by sides that look to have their number. In both the semi-final and the final of the playoffs, they looked like a team that was on the ropes. They looked like their number was up and it was the end of the road. Still, on both occasions they managed to fight back and get the victory that was required. These wins were essential for a club that really does belong at the top table, but one which has fallen through the gaps in recent seasons.
These two sides are due to reacquaint themselves once more when they meet in the opening round of this year’s Champions Cup in October. Plenty of water will have gone under the bridge before then however – both on the field and off it. Northampton recorded an absolutely massive financial loss last year, so it will be interesting to see can they keep hold of players who can now gain more lucrative contracts that they cannnot afford elsewhere.
A statement on their website said: “Dramatically increased playing-related costs, with a much larger salary cap framework and the related inflation in player wages, and strong competition from within the Aviva Premiership and overseas for player signatures.”
Sarries will be keen to put their foot down here and gain an easy and early win over a tea they used to consider rivals. In truth, one of these clubs has pushed on while the other has been left behind. That’s why we are taking Ladbrokes odds of 1/5 and backing Saracens to get the win.