They normally meet in the final but this year they face each other in the last four
Saracens v Harlequins Premier 15s Semi-final Preview
Saracens host Harlequins in the Allianz Premier 15s semi-finals on Sunday, which means the league will have a new final line-up for the first time in its history.
Since its formation in 2017, the title has been contested by the London rivals. But defending champions Quins suffered more losses this season, losing six matches compared to three in the last campaign, which saw them finish the regular season in fourth.
Two-time winners Saracens have maintained their league dominance, securing top spot in the table with just two defeats all season.
Quins and England hooker Amy Cokayne has told Rugby World there’s an added layer to the match as the players know whoever loses will be the first to not to make it to the final.
“The fact there’s going to be a new finalist this year is quite big,” she says. “I think we’re quite keen to not be the first to drop out of the final.”
Cokayne adds that the team haven’t spoken about the fact this will be the first year when Quins play their semi away from home while emphasising that this season has been a different experience for Quins in their role defending champions.
“Week in, week out teams are bringing their A game,” Cokayne says. “I think that’s been represented by teams playing us in the big stadiums. Wasps was at the CBS, Bristol was at Ashton Gate and we played Loughborough Lightning at Franklin’s Gardens.
“Teams have really been putting on big occasions for our fixtures. It’s been good for us playing in those places… When you hear fans cheering for the opposition it just spurs you on. It gives you that extra bit of energy and push to prove them wrong. Especially at Ashton Gate, there were 4,000 people there, you can really hear them.
“To have that as a problem, which we wouldn’t have had a few years ago, is great for the game.”
Despite their impressive season so far, Saracens captain and wing Lotte Clapp believes they can still improve. “With Saracens, it’s always mindset,” she says in Rugby World‘s Style Issue.
“You go out to win; that’s always the intention. Sometimes it’s not pretty, sometimes it’s close to the mark and we make things a bit dramatic. Most of the time we get over the line and I’ve been impressed by the mentality of the girls when we’ve been down and managed to bring it back.
“We’re all on the same page of what we want to do, the game plan. A lot of it is composure, playing in the right areas, switching on from the start, which we’ve been guilty of not doing this season, not switching on until half-time or until they have scored a couple of tries against us.”
It’s a difficult match to predict the winner of, especially if you look back at the two league matches they’ve contested already this season. In their first encounter at the Stone X Stadium, Quins came out on top in a 36-17 victory, but in the reverse fixture at the Stoop Sarries pulled off a 22-8 win.
The outcome of the semi may be hard to pin down but below is all you need to know about the Saracens v Harlequins Premier 15s semi-final.
What’s the big team news?
Saracens have made two changes to their starting XV, with Ella Wyrwas coming in at scrum-half and Poppy Cleall starting in the second row. There have also been some positional changes. Marlie Packer will start at No 8, Vicky Fleetwood moves to openside flanker and Mackenzie Carson is at blindside flanker.
Harlequins, meanwhile, have made six changes to the starting team that lost to Loughborough last week. Lagi Tuima comes in at outside-centre with Emily Scott starting at fly-half.
In the forward pack there’s an almost completely new front row. Vickii Cornborough and Amy Cokayne start alongside Shaunagh Brown, while Rosie Galligan lines up in the second row and Amelia Harper comes into the back row.
What time is kick-off and is it on TV?
The match will kick-off at 2pm on Sunday 22 May at the Stone X Stadium. Tickets are available via saracens.com
The game will be available to watch on BT Sport 2 and on the BBC iPlayer in the UK as well as via premier15s.com
If you don’t have a BT Sport contract but want to watch the match – and the other Premier 15s semi-final between Exeter and Bristol – don’t worry. BT Sport has a contract-free monthly pass that allows you to get instant access to all four of their sport channels for just £25.
Nikki O’Donnell will referee the fixture and she will be assisted by Peter Allan, Ian Bibey and Harry Walbaum. The TMO (television match official) is Dean Richards.
What are the line-ups?
Saracens: Sarah McKenna; Alysha Corrigan, Alev Kelter, Hannah Casey, Lotte Clapp (co-captain); Holly Aitchison, Ella Wyrwas; Hannah Botterman, May Campbell, Kelsey Clifford, Fiona McIntosh, Poppy Cleall, Mackenzie Carson, Vicky Fleetwood, Marlie Packer (co-captain).
Replacements: Kat Evans, Donna Rose, Alex Ellis, Sonia Green, Jodie Rettie, Anna Goddard, Cara Wardle, Tilly Vaughan-Fowler.
Harlequins: Ellie Kildunne; Heather Cowell, Lagi Tuima, Rachael Burford (captain), Jess Breach; Emily Scott, Lucy Packer; Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Shaunagh Brown, Rosie Galligan, Sarah Bonar, Katy Mew, Amelia Harper, Sarah Beckett.
Replacements: Elle Bloor, Tove Viksten, Chloe Edwards, Fi Fletcher, Lauren Brooks, Freya Aucken, Ellie Green, Izzy Mayhew.
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