On Saturday afternoon two heavyweights of English club rugby do battle at the Madejski Stadium in the hope of gaining a place in the European Champions Cup final.
Saracens come into the game as the favourites because of their domination in Europe, having won every game, as well as their superiority in the Aviva Premiership.
Wasps might be the underdogs but they can win this. So far this season Wasps have played the best rugby of any side and look the most dangerous going forward. It’s fair to say that this game is going to be a huge showdown between the pair.
It’s the first time since April 2007 that two English sides have played each other in the semi-final of Europe’s top club tournament. Because this is a rarity, although it might not be should English rugby continue to dominate, Patrick Perry has decided to select a combined XV from both Wasps and Saracens.
It’s a front row dominated by Saracens due to their performances this season. Mako Vunipola is a great ball carrier while he has fantastic handling for a loosehead prop. Petrus Du Plessis has been one of the best scrummagers in the Premiership for a long time and therefore has to make this team.
In the second row it’s the partnership that won England the Six Nations. Though it’s hard to leave out Joe Launchbury, his performances don’t merit a place in this side. The combination of George Kruis and Maro Itoje will serve Saracens and England well over the years to come. Kruis has become a lineout specialist under the tutelage of Steve Borthwick and his presence is always felt around the pitch. Meanwhile, Itoje’s one of the most mobile locks ever, with speed and strength to cut open defences.
At blindside flanker James Haskell earns his place for his determination and hard hitting, as he always nearly tops the tackle charts. George Smith has to be considered for the Player of the Year accolade, and therefore makes it into the XV. His intelligence and breakdown skills have led to an evolution at Wasps.
The choice of Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes is one Eddie Jones will be relishing once Hughes is eligible for England. Vunipola edges it because of his hard work and astonishing carrying.
The half-back paring is split between the two teams. At scrum half, the pacey livewire named Joe Simpson gets the nod because of his ability to split open teams from almost any ruck. At fly-half, Owen Farrell has to be the choice with his dead eye kicking and accurate passing more than warranting his selection.
The centre partnership is a mix of pace and power. At inside centre is the versatile Scotsman Duncan Taylor. Taylor can score tries, run past players and defend brilliantly.
Outside him is the best in his position. Elliot Daly has shown against even Toulon that he’s got the whole package. His passing, running, tackling and even 50-yard shooting is phenomenal.
Picking the back three was a difficult decision to make with many of these players plating very well currently. Among them is the six try scoring Christian Wade, who is the second top scorer in the Premiership despite being out for more than two months. Wade’s pace and agility mean he has to be part of this team.
On the other wing is someone else vying for England selection. Chris Ashton is one of the best finishers in Europe and has an eye for a try.
At full-back is the quick, strong and intelligent Charles Piutau. His performance against Exeter led to this semi-final, so he needs to be in the team.
Check out the full combined XV here:
- Du Plessis
Patrick Perry, Pundit Arena
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Read More About: aviva premiership, aviva premiership news, billy vunipola, champions cup, charles piutau, chris ashton, christian wade, duncan taylor, eddie jones, elliot daly, england rugby, english rugby, european rugby, European Rugby Champions Cup, george kruis, george smith, James Haskell, joe simpson, Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje, owen farrell, Petrus du plessis, saracens, Schalk Brits, Top Story, Wasps