Luther Burrell’s Premiership predictions: ‘Battle of the 10s’ to decide semi-finals and what gives Northampton a ‘huge advantage’

James While
Sponsored Post
Luther Burrell makes his Premiership semi-finals predictions.

Luther Burrell makes his Premiership semi-finals predictions.

As the Premiership semi-finals prepare to kick off, this week’s pundit is the brilliant former Northampton Saints centre Luther Burrell, a man who is anticipating great things from both fixtures.

We have teamed up with eToro, the official investing and trading partner of Premiership Rugby, to bring you a feature that will see us get predictions from a famous face before every Premiership round.

Today we have former England and Saints centre Burrell who can’t wait for the action to begin.

“This is the battle of the 10s this weekend,” he said.

“It’s no coincidence that all four teams are absolutely characterised by the brilliance of their fly-halves – Fin Smith, Owen Farrell, Finn Russell and George Ford – every one a match-winner, each of them near complete in terms of their game-management and impact on the play of their teams.

“It’s one for the purists of back play to enjoy – and what makes it a little spicier is each man has slightly different skill sets and style.”

Northampton Saints v Saracens

“I’ll be there at the Gardens tonight and I do believe that the voices of the Northampton faithful will be a huge advantage to Saints,” Burrell explained.

“In terms of battlegrounds, I believe we’ll see Saracens and Farrell play a game without the ball; exiting long via kicks and then challenging Saints to go around them in the middle part of the pitch, where the Sarries defence, characterised by a world class back-row, will look to squeeze the life out of the brilliant Northampton attack.

“It’s about who wins that breakdown and collision and also which of the scrum-halves gel best with their 10. I do know that Owen was Fin’s idol growing up, a man he watched and tried to emulate, so that fly-half contest is very much master v pupil and one I’m relishing seeing.

“There are so many subplots in this match, not least the leaving and retiring players, which will really add an edge. The likes of Lewis Ludlam, Courtney Lawes and Alex Waller have been titans for the Saints, whilst for Sarries, the contribution of the Vunipolas, Farrell and Maitland to that club has been immense.

Northampton v Saracens: Courtney Lawes leads Saints in final home match as Premiership holders load squad with 20 internationals

“It’s sad one side has to lose, but that’s rugby – and I hope the fans make their voices heard when these icons of the game leave the pitch for their club for the last time, whoever wins or loses.

Head to head: Smith and Farrell cancel each other out, so on the theme of that breakdown, I can’t wait to see Juan Martin Gonzalez and my great pal Courtney Lawes going toe-to-toe in that gainline contest.

Players to watch: Lucio Cinti has been immense in an unsung way for Sarries and I also believe that with a loaded bench, including Theo Dan and Theo McFarland, that the last quarter will be a test for Saints. Alex Mitchell has moved into the world class category in recent times and his impact will be pivotal, as will the power of Juarno Augustus in the carry.

Luther’s Call: It’ll be a home win, but not as big as some might believe – I’m going 24-19 in a real tight and exciting match.

Northampton Saints v Saracens predictions Luther Burrell: 24-19, Planet Rugby: 27-30

Bath v Sale Sharks

“I was reading Johann van Graan’s interviews this week and I have to admire the manner in which he wants his players to embrace and enjoy pressure. He’s created a really happy and balanced team under his management and the Bath boys love playing for him, that’s pretty evident,” Burrell said.

“In terms of battles, this is all about how Bath deal with Sale‘s physicality and the aerial brilliance of George Ford. I recall watching Fordy in the Rugby World Cup last year versus Argentina and being in awe at the completeness of his game. Against him, Finn Russell is more unpredictable but has the basic game of a world class 10. So, for me, it’s a question of if Bath can counter that Sale belief and power in contact, then perhaps they just have that bit more in terms of a rounded game to get over the line.”

Head-to-head: Although they’ll play at 12 and 13 respectively, Manu Tuilagi v Ollie Lawerence is box office, two of the best centres around and both crucial to getting their teams momentum going forward.

Players to watch: At eight there’s another head-to-head with Alfie Barbeary going up against Jean Luc du Preez in a battle of two human boulders. In the front-row, two England candidates, the brilliant ball playing looseheads, Bevan Rodd and Beno Obano will go hammer and tongues at each other despite two differing styles.

Luther’s Call: A really tight one, but given their focus and the fact this is at the Rec and also that I believe they’ve more attacking threat, I’ll call Bath in a thriller 28-21 but don’t underestimate the form or the power of Sale who will push their hosts all the way.

Bath Rugby v Sale Sharks predictions Luther Burrell: 28-21, Planet Rugby: 22-19

The Premiership predictions are brought to you by eToro, the official investing and trading partner of Premiership Rugby.

Tackle investing the smart way and join millions of UK investors on eToro today. The friendly platform for serious investors.

eToro is a multi-asset investment platform. The value of your investments may go up or down. Your capital is at risk.

READ MORE: How Premiership clubs compare to South Africa’s ‘joke’ spending power