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Preview: Saracens v Sale Sharks

Preview: Saracens v Sale Sharks

Alistair Hargreaves and Saracens welcome Sale Sharks for the first game of their Aviva Premiership Rugby title defence and the captain is desperate to hit the ground running.

Sale will take some stopping though, not least because they beat them in the league at the AJ Bell Stadium in February and Sarries are without a number of stars still on World Cup duty.

But the men in black have won their season opener for the last three years in a row and are an impressive force at Allianz Park.

And Hargreaves is adamant that his side are ready to prove themselves and kick off their title defence in style.

“It’s important to get a good start,” he said.  “We had four battles against Sale last season and they had some victories against us as well.

“They’re a very good side and a very physical side, it’s by no means a game we’re expecting to just walk in and win, but we’d like to win that game and to get that good start.

“We’ll have to be on top of our game, they’re a very good side. I don’t think they’ve been too affected by internationals not being in their side, but I think like everyone, we’re looking forward to getting back into a routine again and actually playing some rugby.

“I wouldn’t expect too many surprises; everyone is looking quite good this season. We had a good competitive tournament last year, so I don’t think people will be trying to reinvent the wheel.

“Sale played some very good rugby last year, and they were unlucky not to go further than they did, and I doubt they’ll change their mentality of how to play the game. We haven’t changed too much either, so it should be a good physical clash and a battle that we’re looking forward to.”

Saracens were defeated 24-20 by Exeter in their most recent match at Allianz Park and have never lost successive games at Allianz Park.

Sale Sharks have won just once on the opening weekend since 2010 – 22-16 at Gloucester in 2013 – and their only win on the road in the tournament so far in 2015 came at relegated London Welsh in February.

And after a lengthy pre-season, which included altitude training with England in Denver and started more than three months ago, Sale fly-half Danny Cipriani is raring to go.

"I can't wait, it's been good to get back with Sale and working with the coaches and things have been progressing nicely," he said.

"I think we are in a good position this year and there are a lot of new things in the team and we have a lot of energy.

"I have never seen Steve Diamond so inspired and ready for a season so I am looking forward to it.

"I think as a team we know exactly what we are doing now and we have got a great structure so we need to make sure we realise how good we can be.

"There's always a chance of top four and I think that is definitely something that we are trying to do and to get this club into that region.

"We have over performed in these last few years with the resources that we have had but we have made some quality signings in the off season so we are looking forward to having that chance to get into the top six or four."

Allianz Park, 2pm

Referee: Dean Richards (81st Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Andy Watson & Nigel Carrick. TMO: David Sainsbury.

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