Northampton Saints hooker Mike Haywood acknowledged last season’s play-off semi-final defeat to Saracens has provided additional motivation for the players ahead of Saturday’s Aviva Premiership Rugby fixture at Franklin’s Gardens.
The Saints beat Sarries in the 2014 Aviva Premiership Rugby Final to become champions for the first time and in both of the 2014/15 campaign’s regular season fixtures between the sides to ensure they topped the table heading into the play-offs.
However, The Men in Black won 29-24 in May’s semi-final before going on to defeat Bath 28-16 to lift the title.
Haywood said: “It is the first game at home and we are facing the champions so the boys are champing at the bit. So far we have had a great week’s training and we are looking forward to it.
“Losing in the play-offs last year does add that little bit of fire in us and the boys really are champing at the bit; I can’t wait for it.
“Saracens are a tough side who have a lot of great players and a lot of experienced players. We have to make sure we are switched on and we get our detail right.
“We are back in our stadium and with the new Barwell’s Stand, so there will be a few extra fans to cheer us on. I hope we can do them proud.
“Franklin’s Gardens is our fortress; we want to make sure we don’t lose here,” Haywood added.
Northampton Saints’ only victory in their last five Aviva Premiership Rugby matches was the 42-16 win against Newcastle Falcons in Milton Keynes in round two.
Saints have lost just one of their last twelve regular season Aviva Premiership Rugby matches at Franklin’s Gardens – the24-18 defeat to Exeter in November 2014.
Meanwhile, Saracens have won their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters since Exeter beat them at Allianz Park on May 10.
Sarries’ only defeat in their last five away games in the tournament was to Northampton at stadiummk in April, losing 25-20.
Owen Farrell kicked 19 of Saracens’ 29 points in the play-off win over the Saints in May and is expected to be named in the XV at the weekend.
The England fly-half said: “This is a massive game for us. Northampton are a brilliant side and they will be coming out fighting off the back of a loss last week.
“I’m sure they will be up for it and will want to put in a good performance in front of their home crowd.
“We want to keep winning and keep the points ticking over in the Premiership and pick up as many points as we can before we head into Europe.”
He added: “It is good to be back at a brilliant club [following the World Cup] and have some big games to get my teeth into.”
Franklin’s Gardens, 3.15pm – Live on BT Sport
Referee: Luke Pearce (42nd Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan & Andy Watson
TMO: Trevor Fisher