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Gallagher Premiership
May 18, 2024 at 3.05pm UK
Sale Sharks
Sale Sharks
Riccioni (65')
Roebuck (22'), du Perez (50')

Preview: Saracens vs. Sale Sharks - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Gallagher Premiership clash between Saracens and Sale Sharks, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Sale Sharks' hopes of reaching the Gallagher Premiership playoffs have come down to the final week when they head to London's StoneX Stadium to face the defending champions Saracens.

Saracens have already booked their spot in the next round and are looking to secure home advantage in the semi-finals, while Sale are aiming to cap off a solid campaign with a top-four finish.

Match preview

Owen Farrell in action for Saracens on December 31, 2022© Reuters

Despite the unpredictable nature of the Premiership run-in, Saracens seem to carry an air of inevitability. After winning the Premiership last season, which was their first title since 2019, they booked their place in this season's semis with a commanding 41-20 win over an in-form Bristol Bears last weekend.

After going 10-0 down, Maro Itoje led the comeback with two tries, alongside Rotimi Segun and Juan-Martin Gonzalez, while Elliot Daly, awarded Man of the Match, converted two tries and successfully kicked four penalties. Owen Farrell further bolstered their score with a penalty and conversion, contributing to Sarries reaching their 13th playoff in 15 years.

Now in second place after 17 games, the north Londoners are only playing for seeding in the knockout round and head into the fixture having won their last six on the spin, a winning streak that stretches back to a January defeat against the Leicester Tigers on the road.

Mark McCall's side will clinch a home playoff match with a win here, while they could even finish top of the table with a bonus-point victory and Northampton Saints lose to Bath. A stalemate could be enough for second if Bath fail to beat Saints, while a defeat could still see Saracens finish in the top two, provided they are within three match points of Sale and Bath do not win.

Having got to this position and with a knack for consistently delivering results on big occasions, it is difficult to overlook Saracens as a leading contender for the Gallagher Premiership Rugby title. A triumph at Twickenham would also be a fitting ending, allowing team legend Owen Farrell to depart the club as a champion once more.

Manu Tuilagi in action for Sale Sharks in December 2023© Reuters

A league schedule marked by interruptions has made it difficult to assess certain Premiership clubs accurately this season, and among those have been the Sale Sharks. They were in second place at Christmas, just one point behind Bath, before experiencing a significant dip in form, which plummeted them to eighth place by late March.

However, despite their difficult mid-season, Paul Deacon's side turned a corner at just the right time to make a charge for the semis, putting together a run of four wins on the bounce and breaking back into the top four by securing a bonus-point victory over Leicester Tigers at the Salford Community Stadium last week.

Tries from scrum-half Gus Warr, hooker Tommy Taylor, and full-back Sam James propelled them to a 21-15 lead at half time. Winger Tom O'Flaherty then scored a fourth try after the interval, securing all five points for the team.

A victory against Saracens will secure a playoff spot for Sale, while if they win without allowing a bonus point, they can ensure a home semi-final with a second-place finish. However, for this to happen, Bath must lose without earning two bonus points. A defeat without any bonus points could mean Sale miss out on the playoffs entirely if Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins or Bristol Bears emerge victorious.

The Sharks claimed victory in the previous encounter just before Christmas, narrowly winning 22-20 at Salford Stadium, which helped them maintain their position at the top of the league at that time. McCall's team will not have an easy task here, but they do have more than enough quality and momentum to push Sarries all the way in this one.

Saracens Gallagher Premiership form:

  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W

Sale Sharks Gallagher Premiership form:

  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Team News

Saracens have confirmed a number of players that will be departing the club at the conclusion of the season, including brothers Mako and Billy Vunipola, Logovi'i Mulipola and Tim Swiel.

Farrell will embark on a new journey in the French Top 14, commencing a two-year contract on July 1, and Alex Lexington bids farewell to the sport after an illustrious 15-year journey.

Tom Curry will not be available for Sale's crucial Premiership playoff qualification match against Saracens on Saturday. The 25-year-old flanker, who underwent hip surgery, has been sidelined since the World Cup last autumn.

Sale Sharks have officially announced that homegrown centre Sam James, as well as South African international Cobus Wiese, will depart the Premiership club at the conclusion of the current season.

Saracens predicted starting lineup:15 Elliot Daly, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Tom Parton, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Theo McFarland, 21 Billy Vunipola, 22 Aled Davies, 23 Alex Goode

Sale Sharks predicted starting lineup: Sale Sharks: 15 Sam James, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Rob du Preez, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Tom O'Flaherty, 10 George Ford, 9 Gus Warr, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Sam Dugdale, 6 Ben Curry (c), 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 James Harper, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Bevan Rodd

Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Si McIntyre, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Ben Bamber, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Rekeiti Ma'asi White, 23 Arron Reed

SM words green background

We say: Saracens 32-21 Sale Sharks

Saracens are enjoying a strong end to the 2023-24 Gallagher Premiership and their experience will be a huge factor here. Sale Sharks have not been the best on the road this season and we feel they will be unable to keep up with the defending champions in this one.

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Saracens' Owen Farrell lifts the trophy as they win the Premiership on May 27, 2023
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