Fixture: London Irish v Saracens
Competition: Premiership Rugby Cup, Round 2
Date: Friday 19th November 2021
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
London Irish take on Mark McCall’s Saracens for the second time in as many weeks, with the second round Premiership Rugby Cup meeting under the Friday Night Lights at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Saracens are no strangers to the latter stages of the Premiership Rugby Cup, progressing to the final back in the 2018/19 campaign and then reaching the semi-finals as best runner-up from the pool stages in 2019/20.
The North London outfit will complete their recent spate of local derbies over the last month with their trip to the west of the capital, looking to exact revenge after the Exiles’ 26-point comeback draw in the Gallagher Premiership.
Both sides have since opened their Premiership Rugby Cup accounts with victories, Irish surviving Northampton Saints’ valiant attempt in the Midlands to win 36-26 whilst the Men in Black overcame Harlequins 28-21.
Like Friday’s hosts, Sarries bagged a try bonus in their first round win with scores from Richard Barrington, Dom Morris and a brace from Theo McFarland on his starting debut.
McCall and his backroom staff have been able to underscore their strength in depth on the field in recent weeks as the Autumn Nations Series continues; with those like McFarland, Elliot Obatoyinbo and Manu Vunipola having been given the platform to stake their claim for long-term involvement in the matchday setup.
The boss - Mark McCall:
The Bangor native led Saracens back to the first tier of English rugby last term at the first time of asking, and in turn added the Greene King IPA Championship trophy to his plethora of silverware as Director of Rugby in North London.
The most successful man in charge in the Premiership has brought his side back into playoff contention, sitting second in the division behind Leicester Tigers upon completion of the first block of Premiership fixtures.
McCall hailed Irish’s recent draw to Saracens as a “magnificent display”, with the former Exile adding: "[Irish] have been doing this all season, they've done it again and they're a club with some real fight and some real quality and we knew that, and to come back from 34-8 down with 14 men is something special.”
One to Watch - Rotimi Segun:
The 25-year-old thrives in taking opportunities in absence of international star power, touching down twice for his first scores against the Exiles a fortnight ago in the Premiership.
The winger by trade has amassed a stately 24 tries in 46 appearances for Saracens, having put pen-to-paper this year to extend his stay at the StoneX Stadium to 2023.
Segun was the top try scorer in the 2019/20 edition of the Premiership Rugby Cup with five, and has continued his form in the tournament by setting up Dom Morris’ try against ‘Quins in Round One.
Sarries’ local boy was indeed the club’s leading try scorer in all competitions two seasons ago, with Mark McCall stating, “His potential for growth and desire to improve is exciting and we are sure his best days are ahead of him.”
Classic Encounter - London Irish 23, Saracens 19 - December 27th 2009 - Guinness Premiership
Comeback results against this weekend’s opponents are not a new phenomenon, as proved back in 2009 when Elvis Seveali'i touched down to complete London Irish’s turnaround against Saracens at the Madejski Stadium.
Both teams went into the break with a try each respectively, but Sarries’ Glen Jackson proved vital, adding a conversion and two penalties to put his side six points to the good.
Chris Malone built on Chris Hala’ufia’s first-half effort with two penalties to level the scoreboard after the break, but Jackson’s accuracy once again came in clutch to edge the visitors in front.
Nevertheless, Irish’s Samoan centre was on hand to power through and dot down ten minutes from time, with Malone’s extras ensuring the belated festive gift from the Exiles to the fans in Berkshire.
Tries: Chris Hala'ufia, Elvis Seveali'i
Conversions: Chris Malone (2)
Penalties: Chris Malone (3)
Tries: Justin Melck
Conversion: Glen Jackson
Penalties: Glen Jackson (3)
Drop-goal: Alex Goode
Saracens coach Kelly Brown has spoken on the benefits of the Premiership Rugby Cup in highlighting the league’s youthful talent.
“It’s where a lot of the England players now, certainly a lot of the guys in our team, the stars, have come through and gone on to play internationals, a lot of them started in the Prem Cup,” Brown stated.
“I just think it’s a really exciting competition for those young guys and it’s going to give them opportunities to put a hand up to say to senior coaches ‘I’m ready to step up into the Premiership’.
Alongside the likes of Rotimi Segun and Manu Vunipola, Saracens Storm regulars Ollie Stonham, Toby Knight and Brandon Jackson made an appearance off the bench in Round One against Harlequins.
“Hopefully, if it gives them a taste and a flavour as to what it’s like, it’ll spur them on to work even harder and fight to break into the first team at Saracens as soon as they can.”
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Compiled by Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan