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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Saracens in a rush to hit top gear against Harlequins

Newcastle have too much firepower for Northampton

Harlequins overcame Saracens at the Stoop in December
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Saracens v Harlequins
BT Sport 1 & Channel 5, 3pm Saturday
Newcastle v Northampton
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday

Two new venues are added to the Aviva Premiership roll as the London Stadium hosts the clash between Saracens and Harlequins while Newcastle host Northampton at St James' Park.

Sarries have slipped to third - and out of the home playoff semi-final spots - with back-to-back defeats, but with most of their international contingent back for this clash, expect them to make all the early running as they aim to steady the ship.

Fly-half Owen Farrell plus lock George Kruis are still sidelined having picked up injuries with England, but Jamie George and Maro Itoje start in the pack, Richard Wigglesworth and Alex Lozowski are an all-England half-back pairing, while Sean Maitland and Liam Williams are back on the wings.

Quins have some star names back too and will be buoyed by their 20-5 victory over Bath last time out, a result which brought to an end a run of four straight league defeats.

But they have won just once in seven away trips in this campaign, and that was in round three at an out-of-sorts and injury-hit Wasps side. Their backline looks strong but Sarries have the edge up front to put the visitors on the back foot.

Saracens have only this game to get back in the groove before next weekend's seismic European Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster in Dublin. They will want to hit top gear quickly and build a lead so coach Mark McCall can rotate his squad to keep players fresh for next week. They look good things to overcome a seven-point first-half handicap.

Saturday Pro14 preview

Newcastle are looking to attract a big, noisy crowd to St James' Park, where they are 11-point favourites against Northampton.

The Falcons have won seven of their last eight Premiership matches - the one defeat was at Saracens and the sequence started with a 24-22 success at Northampton.

With just two wins in their last 12 league games, the Saints look all at sea. Against an exciting attacking unit who will be fired up by the big crowd and iconic surroundings they look set to miss out, but they are scoring tries - they have managed three in all but one of the last six games - and could keep the margin down to single figures.

Saracens -6 on first-half handicap
3pts 5-6 BoyleSports
Newcastle to win by one to 12 points
1pt 7-4 Betway

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Saracens have only this game to get back in the groove before next weekend's seismic European Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster in Dublin
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