Rugbu Union

Saracens prepare for Ealing play-off

Saracens won 48-20 when they faced Ealing Trailfinders during the regular campaign in April
Venue: Trailfinders Sports Club Date: Sunday, 13 June Kick-off: 16:30 BST Coverage: Full live commentary on BBC Radio London Digital (and online) with live scores on the BBC Sport website

Saracens and England hooker Jamie George says the Championship play-off final could prove to be one of the most important matches in his career.

Sarries travel to Ealing Trailfinders in the first leg on Sunday (16:30 BST).

Saracens have included 12 international players – five of whom have been named in the British & Irish Lions squad to face South Africa – in their line-up.

“It’s probably the game which has the most riding on it out of any game I’ve ever played in,” George said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Weekly, the 30-year-old added: “We can’t lose, and there are pressures with that. Every point counts.

“It’s massive and the expectation is high. It is like we are preparing for a European final.”

Sarries are aiming to return to the Premiership at the first attempt, having been relegated for persistent breaches of the salary cap.

The north London club have won five Premiership titles and three European Champions Cups under director of rugby Mark McCall.

The Northern Irishman expects his squad to draw on their previous experience of big finals for the two-legged play-off, where the club with the highest aggregate score will be promoted to the top flight.

“This group of players has been used to important matches this time of year,” McCall said.

“We have got some rhythm in our game, and that level of cohesion is something we have always found to be very important.

“The opportunity to get back into the Premiership is what we wanted.”

Ealing ‘keen to make step up’

Ealing finished top of the table after Saracens had their final match of the campaign called off, but Sarries won 48-20 when the two sides met during the regular season in April.

The Trailfinders are bidding to reach the Premiership for the first time, and director of rugby Ben Ward hopes his players have learnt from their first encounter with the north Londoners.

“We can’t afford to give them as much time on the ball as in that first game,” Ward said.

“We know Saracens have a few other things they are going to bring to the table. But we are focusing on what we are going to do in the big moments.

“We know where we want to go as a club and we have been building towards that for the last couple of years. We are keen to make the step up.”

McCall believes west London outfit Ealing are “ready” to play in the top flight, and expects a “stern challenge” over the next two weekends.

“The preparation we have done is like it would be for any huge match,” McCall added.

“Ealing are the sort of team you don’t want to let into your 22 as they can do some real damage.

“They have really experienced half-backs who play a strong territorial game and they are a good set-piece team too.”

The return leg will take place at Saracens’ StoneX Stadium on Sunday, 20 June.

Ealing Trailfinders: Johnston; Hammond, Bodilly, Gordon, Cordy-Redden; Willis, Hampson; Davis, Malton, Whyte, De Wee, Cannon, Murphy, Uzokwe, Smid (capt).

Replacements: Van Vuuren, Gibbons, Thiede, Linsell, Thompson, Burns, Daniels, Al-Jiboori.

Saracens: Goode; Lewington, Daly, Tompkins, Maitland; Farrell (capt), Davies; M Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Swinson, Rhodes, Wray, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Woolstencroft, Adams-Hale, Clarey, Hunter-Hill, Reffell, Whiteley, Taylor, Segun.

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