Two heavyweights of Aviva Premiership Rugby come together on Sunday as Saracens and Wasps go toe-to-toe in an encounter where no punches will be pulled.
The old enemies are two of the most storied sides in the competition’s history and the clash is one of real pedigree – matching up last season’s Aviva Premiership Rugby finalists with reigning European champions Saracens.
Mark McCall’s side are unbeaten in their last 17 home games in Aviva Premiership Rugby, since Northampton Saints won at Allianz Park in March 2016.
And whilst Wasps have uncharacteristically lost three on the trot, they’ve not lost four in a row in the tournament since March 2014 and are at their most dangerous when wounded.
Before Sunday’s game, we take a look back at five of the best fixtures between this weekend’s opponents in recent memory.
2007 – Wasps 27 Saracens 26
Just over ten years ago Wasps and Saracens played out a belter of a game which looked to be heading the north London side’s way until the final ten minutes.
Thomas Castaignede’s first-half injury-time try and Census Johnston’s effort just after the break had put Saracens firmly in control at Adams Park.
A fresh-faced Danny Cipriani, in his first spell with Wasps, pulled one back but Rodd Penney again extended the lead and looked to have sealed the points with 70 minutes on the clock.
But Saracens hadn’t counted on Irishman Eoin Reddan and with Lawrence Dallaglio’s side 26-13 down, up stepped the scrum-half to score a double, producing an outcome that Saracens director of rugby Alan Gaffney described as “soul-destroying”.
2008 – Wasps 33 Saracens 24
Just 18 months later, Wasps, then reigning Premiership champions, were at it again against their London rivals.
Cipriani kicked the home side into a 9-6 lead at the break but Glen Jackson brought the scores level before a youthful Alex Goode fed Noah Cato to gallop towards the line.
Substitute Dave Walder added a fourth Wasps penalty – the game then exploded into a frenzy with Rob Hoadley’s 71st-minute try and Sackey’s chargedown score putting them ahead.
2003 World Cup winner Josh Lewsey extended the lead and Cato’s second try at the death wasn’t enough to get Saracens, then coached by Eddie Jones, back into the game.
2011 – Saracens 15 Wasps 20
Wasps had an injury-hit 2011-12 season, finishing in 11th place but crucially avoiding relegation thanks to Tom Varndell’s heroic tackle on Bath’s Sam Vesty in the penultimate game of the season.
But their campaign couldn’t have started any better with this famous win over reigning champions Saracens at Twickenham in front of 55,000 people.
Penalties for Owen Farrell and Wasps’ Nicky Robinson were traded before slick passing from Riki Flutey and Chris Bell put the lethal Christian Wade in for a try.
Substitute Charlie Hodgson gave Sarries a 15-13 lead but Varndell went in under the posts and Wasps’ militant defence held firm to inflict Mark McCall’s first loss as director of rugby.
2014 – Saracens 34 Wasps 28
With Saracens and Wasps fighting out a good deal of the London Double Headers over the years, there’s been a fair few opening-day crackers between the sides.
McCall’s team went into the game as Aviva Premiership Rugby runners-up and outmuscled Wasps in the first half, with tries for eternal poacher Chris Ashton and fellow winger David Strettle.
Dai Young’s side fought back in the second half with a try for Nathan Hughes and a brace for Christian Wade, returning from injury and no stranger to a score at Allianz Park.
Strettle brought Saracens back within a point and then stole the game with his hat-trick try at the death – a TMO decision keeping the crowd in suspense until it became clear the England winger had pushed the ball over the line.
2016 – Saracens 23 Wasps 64
The travelling support would bite your hand off for a repeat of this fixture two seasons ago, when Wasps amazingly ran in eight tries against the then-leaders of the Aviva Premiership Rugby.
The Coventry side’s opening salvo saw All Black Charles Piutau, Thomas Young and Dan Robson all cross inside eight minutes at Allianz Park.
Centre Brad Barritt responded but Nathan Hughes’ double surged Wasps into a deserved 31-16 half-time lead, with the bonus point being secured inside half an hour.
Jimmy Gopperth, Piutau and Robson subsequently added three more tries for Dai Young’s side and Jim Hamilton got one back for Sarries, who went on to concede the most points at home in their history.