Saracens fan Ben Ireland looks ahead to Saracens' match at Zebre in the Heineken Cup this weekend

Enfield Independent: Picture: Action Images Picture: Action Images

Sarries come off the back two hard-fought Premiership wins - and to be honest, in many respects two imprecise and uncontrolled performances.

But a win is a win (twice), and at least there has been some much-needed rest and rotation for many in the squad.

This momentum and freshness will be crucial going into the next fortnight of Heineken Cup games. On the face of it, this is 'just' Zebre; but the devastating home defeat to Toulouse has left the Men in Black pretty desperate in the pool.

The maximum 10 points over the next two games is pretty much a necessity.

If we get the perfect result this coming Saturday, then the return leg, at home, against familiar opponents, should follow suit.

In other words, there is a lot of pressure to put in the right performance this week.

While their replacements certainly have not underperformed, the absence of Jacques Burger and Billy Vunipola has left a notable gap in aggression and power.

With the restoration of both - alongside either Brown or Joubert to provide control and stability - there is a pretty good chance that we will dominate the physical exchanges.

Allied with a strong set-piece, this should give the half-backs a suitable platform to play off.

We've had a tendency in the last two weeks to kick the ball even more than usual: against Exeter, this gave them plenty of opportunity to run back at us; against Sale, it resulted in endless, aimless kicking duels.

Hopefully, with more go-forward ball and the imperative of scoring four tries, the likes of De Kock and Hodgson will rediscover their attacking edge.

Hopefully too, they will have true centres outside them - rather than makeshifts from other positions - to run threatening angles and to distribute the ball out wide.

Sarries have produced some real heroics in the last two games - the staggering 250 tackles against Exeter, led wonderfully by Jacques Burger and Steve Borthwick; and the outstanding patience and control in the lead-up to the Kruis try against Sale.

But truth be told, these have been us digging our way out of holes largely of our own making. Hopefully this weekend we can take the game to the opposition on the front-foot, rather than rescue the game on the rearguard.

Club captain and now Sarries legend Steve Borthwick has announced his retirement at the end of the season. Such a loyal and dedicated servant deserves one more shot at the big time...


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