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Selection dilemma for Saracens

Saracens expect to enter the Aviva Premiership final against Bath with a fully fit squad, but director of rugby Mark McCall is reluctant to make changes for the Twickenham showpiece.

A bug swept through the ranks in the build-up to the 29-24 play-off victory at Northampton, yet still they subdued the reigning champions in a display of trademark belligerence led by flanker Jacques Burger.

Hooker Schalk Brits was a late withdrawal after spending two days in hospital and losing 7-8kgs, while England stars Brad Barritt and Chris Ashton were also badly affected, although they still started the game.

"Having had a tortuous nine months of injury, we'll probably reach the final with everyone fit," McCall said.

"But given how well the team did against Northampton it would be very hard not to play them again. We'll make those calls over the next few days.

"We're delighted to be in the final and put a huge amount into that game. We'll look after the players in midweek."

Bath sparkled in toppling Leicester 47-10 and the final will be an intriguing clash between rival philosophies, their swashbuckling commitment to attack against Saracens' suffocating pragmatism.

There were few thrills in Northampton's defeat - three of the game's four tries came from driving mauls and the fourth was the product of a kick-chase - but it was enough for Saracens to avenge their loss in the repeat of last season's final.

"This year is this year and last year was last year. It was important that what happened before never comes into our thinking," McCall said.

"Beating Northampton now means nothing because we have to earn it and deserve it again next weekend in the final. It's about how we play in those 80 minutes.

"But if we reach a similar level, we'll give ourselves a great chance. We have to transfer this energy to Twickenham.

"Although this has been an up and down season in some respects, when you look at it there have been only a couple of mini slumps.

"But in amongst it all we've played brilliantly seven or eight times, at a high level.

"We knew that if we did that against Northampton we'd have a chance and that's what we did. We'll have to do it again next week."

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has sought consolation in Saints' success in finishing at the top of the Premiership.

"It's tremendous to finish top of the pile for the first time in the club's history. We take a lot of credit from that and we're happy to have done it," Mallinder said.

"But ultimately we've failed at this semi-final stage so we're disappointed to be going out a week early."


From Belfast Telegraph