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Saracens eye derby bragging rights

Saracens will swap Wembley Stadium for New York this weekend, aiming to arrive in the Big Apple as London's big cheeses by claiming bragging rights over Harlequins.

The north Londoners will head off on another of their famed team bonding trips after hosting Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday, aiming to break the world-record club rugby crowd at England's iconic national stadium.

Brendan Venter dreamed up the now-customary team bonding trip designed to refresh the Allianz Park club's charges.

A south-coast fishing trip offered humble origins, before jaunts to Miami Beach and Munich for Oktoberfest.

Now head coach Mark McCall is taking his men off to the city that never sleeps, and England full-back Alex Goode admits it will be important to depart with a derby win tucked alongside passports in the back pocket.

"There's a team bonding trip planned that we always have at this time of year really, which will be great for the guys," Goode told Press Association Sport.

"It's good when everyone comes back together just to really make sure we've got that togetherness.

"It allows us to reinforce the culture, so it will be great to get away and do that.

"It's great fun but it's also great for us, just in terms of refreshing ourselves and spending time together as a team.

"It would be fantastic to head off with a win, but we know that won't come easy. Quins are a top side, they have a top squad and they're bound to come out flying."

Saracens set the club rugby crowd world record at Wembley in March 2012, amassing 83,671 spectators.

Now the club are aiming to surpass that tally, with more than 80,000 tickets sold by Friday.

Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola will jump straight back into battle for Saracens after the Six Nations, while Harlequins continue their policy of resting their England contingent following the annual European showpiece.

Danny Care, Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw will return for the league clash against London Irish a week further down the line.

Nick Easter will captain Quins, with Nick Evans fit to return at fly-half.

Saracens will play their 11th fixture in less than four years at Wembley this weekend, but Goode said gracing the famous turf never loses its magic.

"I love playing here, I think whether you're English or not it's a wonderful stadium, the pitch is beautiful," he said.

"And to think it will be pretty much as full as can be come the weekend, it's fantastic.

"It's a very exciting thing for the players and everyone's got a spring in their step when you come and train here.

"We're lucky our international guys are extremely focused and desperate to get back in and play straight away.

"We're just keen to put in a big performance this weekend. That's part of our culture at the club, to make sure wherever we are we won't be knocked off our intensity.

"It's going to be two great sides, pushing into the top four, going at it 100 per cent and it's going to be great to watch.

"We need to get some momentum now for the next 10 games or so."

Northampton welcome back six internationals after Six Nations duty, but are without Samu Manoa, who is away with the United States.

Stephen Myler also returns after missing last weekend's LV= Cup final defeat to Exeter.

Dwayne Peel and Danny Cipriani pair up at half-back for Sale, who boast destructive flankers Dan Braid and David Seymour in tandem in the back-row.

More than 20,000 supporters will flock to the Madejski Stadium for London Irish's St Patrick's Party clash against Bath.

Jamie Hagan and Fergus Mulchrone return after injury, with lock George Skivington captain.

Marland Yarde, Topsy Ojo and James O'Connor form a potent Irish back-three, while Bath have made nine changes from the side that lost out to Exeter in LV= Cup semi-final action two weeks ago.

Dave Attwood, Paul James, Davey Wilson and George Ford return from Six Nations duty, with Kyle Eastmond at inside centre.

Evergreen centre Mike Tindall captains Gloucester for their Kingsholm clash against Newcastle Falcons.

The 35-year-old former England skipper starts at inside centre, with Shaun Knight replacing Rupert Harden at tighthead prop.

Ryan Mills, heading to Worcester in the summer, starts ahead of Leicester-bound Freddie Burns at fly-half.

England Under-20s wing wonder Zach Kibirige starts for Newcastle, who show four changes in their starting line-up.


From Belfast Telegraph