Three areas where the Premiership Final will be won

Three areas where the Premiership Final will be won

The master meets the apprentice as Saracens and Sale Sharks do battle for the first time in a Gallagher Premiership Rugby final.

For 12 years Mark McCall and Alex Sanderson served alongside each other in north London, with Sanderson the assistant to McCall during the most successful period in Sarries’ history.

Two years ago Sanderson chose to forge his own path and while the pair could not be more different off the pitch, their approach to the game aligns in myriad ways.

Ahead of their first meeting in a major final, and one that could be the first of many, we look at three areas where Saturday’s showpiece could be won and lost.

The battle of the fly-halves

Fly-halves are often at the forefront of major finals but the relationship between the two 10s this weekend adds an intriguing subplot to the action.

In last year's final, George Ford, then in the green of Leicester Tigers, exited the field after just 23 minutes to be replaced by Freddie Burns who later became the protagonist of the Twickenham drama.  

Ford swapped the Midlands for the northwest during the close season and will once again come up against childhood friend and England teammate Owen Farrell in the league decider. 

Both are widely regarded as two of the best playmakers around but it could be their accuracy from the tee which goes a long way to deciding the destination of this year’s title.

Farrell seems to have corrected some issues that were troubling him earlier in the season, while Ford remains as consistent as ever, leaving little between the two in the goal-kicking department.

Not only could the victor of this particular battle sway the outcome of this match, they could also make a very compelling case for the England No.10 shirt for this year’s World Cup.

Heavyweight clash at the breakdown

Two of England's outstanding flankers will go head-to-head on Saturday, with both surprisingly making their first start at Twickenham this year.  

Tom Curry missed the Six Nations with a hamstring injury and has played the full 80 just once since his return but will be relied upon for a big performance at the breakdown in the absence of brother Ben.

His opposite number Ben Earl featured as a replacement just twice during the Championship but has once again been one of Saracens’ most consistent performers, and like Curry will want to strengthen his World Cup aspirations with a solid showing in the domestic finale.

No player has made more turnovers than Earl during the 2022/23 campaign, while Curry, whose year has been blighted by injury, averages a turnover every 38 minutes in the league. 

The pair are undoubtedly high-class operators, but they will be determined to earn the big-game player tag as they gun for their first Gallagher Premiership Rugby winners' medals.

Advantage Sharks at the scrum?

Saracens looked subdued during the 2022 final but McCall was reluctant to make changes to inject more impetus into his side.

Of Saracens' three alternatives up front, only Eroni Mawi was introduced, by which point Steve Borthwick had played all three of Tigers' front-row cards.

With Theo Dan and Christian Judge waiting in the wings this time round - two players who were not involved this time last year - McCall will have more faith in his cavalry to make an impact. 

Sanderson, by contrast, will have no qualms turning to scrum specialists Ewan Ashman and Bevan Rodd – both full internationals.

Saracens have suffocated teams time and time again en route to a second successive final but Sharks of all teams have the arsenal to sap the energy from them at scrum time and at the lineout. 

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