Saracens look to save season

It's all or nothing for Saracens when they line up against Northampton Saints in the English Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Londoners, having been battered and bruised by a supremely efficient Toulon in the European Cup final, need to pick themselves up if they are to gain anything from an English season in which they have been the dominant club team. They have been forced to make only two changes to the team which went down 23-6 in the Cardiff showpiece: adding South African lock Mouritz Botha in place of South African lock Alistair Hargreaves, who drops to the bench, and Richard Barrington for the injured loosehead Mako Vunipola. Neil de Kock comes in as per the rotation schedule for Richard Wigglesworth, bringing to five the number of South Africans in the run-on side.

The question is, after a demanding season in which Saracens topped the table by nine points ahead of Saints, losing only three matches, what do they have left, in terms of fitness and confidence? Of particular note is the fall-off of such players as the Namibian wrecking ball Jacques Burger, who was outstanding in the European Cup semi-final, but overrun in the final. But can Tom Wood lead a loose trio to the heights attained by Juan Smith, Steffon Armitage and Juan-Martin Fernandez Lobbe?

Northampton found fresh energy in the later stages of the season, and are confident after beating Bath 30-16 for the European Challenge Cup the evening before Saracens were demolished by Jonny Wilkinson and his mates. They will look back on how they came back from 28-10 down to lose by just four points the last time they played. The battle between Saracens flyhalf Owen Farrell, swamped by Wilkinson, and Saints' Stephen Myler, who dictated the Challenge Cup final, will be fascinating.

Saracens have history on their side, having won five of their last six visits to Twickenham in all tournaments, the loss being to Toulon in last season's European Cup semi-final, and they fondly remember 2011, when they finally secured the title, beating Leicester. But it must weigh heavily, too, the fact that if they don't win this one, they come away with nothing. What a waste.

Saracens – 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Johnston, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20  Jackson Wray, 21  Richard Wigglesworth, 22  Charlie Hodgson, 23  Chris Wyles.

Northampton – 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood (c), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Corbisiero
Subs: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Christian Day, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 James Wilson, 23 Tom Stephenson.

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images