Saracens star Wigglesworth feels forwards battle will be decisive against former club Sale
Exclusive: Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth believes the battle between past and present England fly-halves will play second fiddle to a pack clash when his former side Sale Sharks visit Allianz Park.
Sarries are blessed with two talented No10s in record Premiership points scorer Charlie Hodgson – a former Sale and Red Rose ace – and Owen Farrell, who looks set to occupy the role for the national team in the long-term.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have Danny Cipriani, a former England goal-kicker who looks to be finally fulfilling the promise of his early career.
Yet after a late backs-to-the-wall rearguard action that saw Saracens edge past Exeter Chiefs 16-9 at the weekend, Wigglesworth feels that the match will be won or lost up front.
“They say forwards win games and that will be a big part of it because they’ve got a big pack that we need to deal with,” said Wigglesworth.
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“If we can get on top of them there it will make our half-back’s jobs easier than theirs. A No10 plays well because his team plays well. We’ve got to try to allow Charlie or Owen to play well.”
Hodgson, who followed Wigglesworth from Sale to Saracens in 2011, saw an early head injury end his afternoon as a precaution at Exeter, while Farrell was rested after his England exertions.
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He could return on Saturday, giving the home side an interesting selection dilemma.
“I don’t know who is going to play but we are spoilt for choice with those two,” said Wigglesworth.
“I’ve played with Charlie for 10 years and the guy really is special – and in Owen Farrell we’ve probably got England’s No10 for the next 10 years at least.
“His determination, his desire, is something that not a lot of people have got. His will and ability to improve his game means he’s going to be a top player for a long time.”
Wigglesworth is no stranger to Sale marksman Cipriani either as their paths crossed while on England duty during the 2008 Six Nations.
The scrum-half said: “I made my debut the week after Danny and played in that Six Nations where he had that last game against Ireland, when he announced himself.
“We get on well, he’s a nice lad and I’m sure all the stuff that gets written about him is frustrating. But what he’s done well, he’s got his head down and played some rugby.
“He’s got all the skills and talent that you’d want and if you put him in the right environment and put the right players around him then he’s a dangerous player. They’re getting more out of him than the previous seasons.
“Dwayne Peel at nine is playing well so he [Cipriani] has got the tools around him to do a lot of damage, with a couple of big centres and a good back three.
“You obviously need your No10 to play well, but in front of that his pack is playing well.”
Wigglesworth has backed his forwards to do the same, and flanker Jacques Burger could be a key man in that respect.
The Namibian international made a staggering 36 tackles at Sandy Park – the most recorded in a Premiership game for 10 years, beating Lewis Moody’s previous best by nine tackles.
Burger has been imperious this term after two previous seasons where he and the club feared a knee injury might end his career.
Wigglesworth said: “Jacques is just a massive bonus for us. We were all so worried about him, going through what he’s gone through in the last couple of years.
“He’s had to stop and start so many times, having pins in his leg and then taken out. It’s the measure of the man, and to put his body on the line in the way he does is amazing.”
Saracens will be celebrating the 37th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s legendary Anaheim concert at Saturday’s home game against Sale. There will be music and tribute acts, while anyone dressed as The King will be admitted to the match free of charge.