Friday, May 11, 2012

Aviva Premiership Semi Finals - The Road to Twickenham

The Aviva Premiership is down to four with the Semi Finals of England´s premier rugby competition to be played on Saturday in Leicester and London. The two winning sides will qualify for the final to be played at the home of English rugby, Twickenham Stadium on May 26. The same venue will host the Heineken Cup Final one week earlier between Leinster and Ulster. It will also be the central venue for Rugby World Cup 2015 with the RFU having said the venue will open the tournament as well as host the final.

The Aviva Premiership Semi Finals will be a further case in point for Argentina to host Rugby World Cup 2023 due to the involvement of Pumas players in both Semi Finals. No other country yet to host a World Cup will have players in both Semi Finals. The case for Argentina to host is also supported by the involvement of the USA with the North American country having a player involved in one of the two Semi Finals. With Japan hosting Rugby World Cup 2019 the Americas will be the onl region yet to have hosted a World Cup. The same region is the only to have produced a World Cup Semi Finalist yet to host a tournament.

Leicester Tigers vs Saracens
Saracens won the 2011 Final while Leicester won in 2010. In 2012, however, they will play at the Semi Finals stage. Leicester enter as heavy favorites having dominated the Aviva Premiership inr ecent times. Since the completion of the Six Nations no team has come close to playing the kind of rugby that Leicester have. 

Players from the Americas: Horacio Agulla and Marcos Ayerza (Argentina),  Chris Wyles (USA), Martín Castrogiovanni and Carlos Nieto (Argentine players who are Italian capped)

Prediction: Tigers to win by 12 points.

15 Geordan Murphy (captain), 14 Horacio Agulla, 
13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 George Skivington, 3 Dan Cole, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Bench: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Craig Newby, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Scott Hamilton
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Owen Farrell, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Rhys Gill.
Bench: 16 Jamie George, 17 John Smit, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Hugh Vyvyan, 20 George Kruis, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Adam Powell, 23 James Short.

Harlequins vs Northampton Saints
The Quins dominated the first half of the season and were well out in front in the Premiership before other clubs closed the gap following the return of players from World Cup duty. Northampton were the final team to qualify for the Semi Finals but are no weak opponent. The match could go either way with the sides being of similar abilities.

Players from the Americas: Tomás Vallejos Cinalli

Prediction: Harlequins to win by 3

15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson,
4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler
Bench: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Tomás Vallejos Cinalli, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Richard Bolt, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Matt Hopper.
Northampton15 Ben Foden,14 Chris Ashton, 13 George Pisi, 12 James Downey, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson (captain), 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 James Craig, 5 Christian Day, 4 Mark Sorenson, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Andy Long, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha
Bench: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Ben Nutley, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Tom May.

2010 Final 

2011 Final 

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