Although the rivalry between the Leicester Tigers and Saracens may only be a modern incarnation, they have both given rise to two of the best club teams in the history of English rugby.
While the core of the Leicester team may have had it’s roots in the amateur era, they were completely professional in their approach. The Tigers won four Premiership titles in a row between 1998 and 2002, and became the first side to win back to back European crowns in 2001 and 2002.
The side was built around the likes of Martin Johnson, Neil Back, Graham Rowntree and Ben Kay, players who went onto the lead England to World Cup glory in 2003 and represent the Lions.
Although this particular Saracens team may not have the same amount of medals hanging around the necks, they have just won back-to-back Premiership titles and claimed their maiden European Cup.
Mark McCall has after all, assembled a young squad that has the potential to dominate English rugby for years to come. Indeed, the likes of Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell will not only form the core of the Saracens team next season, but England and potentially the Lions.
As a result, we have decided to compare the starting XV’s of England’s two most dominant club sides of the modern era.
Like many of the players being rated here, both Mako Vunipola and Graham Rowntree had contrasting styles. While Vunipola has made his name as an explosive ball carrying loosehead, Rowntree’s earned his reputation in the scrum.
For that reason, alongside his longevity, we have given the nod to Tigers man.
Dorian West was an old school style hooker, who worked as a police officer before turning pro with Leicester.
Although he was part of England’s World Cup winning squad in 2003, Schalk Brits is a much more rounded player, who has the pace, mobility and hands to play in the backrow.
Like many of the other Tigers players on this list, Darren Garforth’s career transcended the amateur and professional eras. While he won 25 England caps, he was unlucky to have played at the same time as the legendary Phil Vickery
However, since joining Sarries in 2010, Petrus du Plessis has become an important player for Mark McCall’s side and played in key role in last season’s Champions Cup Final.
The man who has done it all verses the man with the potential to do it all. For that reason we have given the nod to Martin Johnson.
Two very dependable and consistent players who each act as perfect foils for their more illustrious second row partners. As a result, we couldn’t choose between them.
Michael Rhodes has become an unsung hero for many Saracens fans last season, quickly becoming an important part of their double winning team. Similarly, although Lewis Moody may have been overshadowed by some of his team-mates in 2002, he was nonetheless an important figure for the Tigers.
There can be only one winner here. Although Will Fraser has demonstrated his potential, Neil Back was on another level.
Although Martin Corry became a World Cup winner in 2003, he could never be described as being one of the game’s leading backrows. Billy Vunipola on the other hand certainly is.
Despite being criticised for his performances on the international stage, Richard Wigglesworth has become a key figure for Saracens. Similarly, despite winning consecutive European cups and five Premiership titles, Jamie Hamilton was overlooked by England.
Austin Healey’s footballing ability enabled him to slot into any number of positions in the Tigers backline. However given the fact that he started the 2002 Heineken Cup final at fly half, we selected him in the 10 shirt.
However Healey’s versatility is no match for Owen Farrell’s control and reliability for Saracens.
Chris Wyles maybe a speedster on the wing, but Freddie was the original Tuilagi.
Selecting between Brad Barritt and Rod Kafer is really a subjective choice. Do you prefer a playmaker or ball carrier at inside centre?
We gave the nod to Barritt.
Although Ollie Smith may have been a fans favourite at Welford Road, he never really cut it at international level. Duncan Taylor on the other hand has established himself at Saracens and become one of Scotland’s most potent players.
It’s hard to choose between Chris Ashton and Geordan Murphy. Although they are different types of players, both Ashton and Murphy became key to their clubs but overlooked at international level.
Following his brilliant 2015/16 season it was hard not to rank Alex Goode over Tim Stimpson, but after reminiscing over some of his famous kicks at goal, we went for the Tigers fullback.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena