Danny Cipriani and Willi Heinz have been pivotal in Gloucester’s third-place finish this season
Gallagher Premiership
Venue: Allianz Park Date: Saturday, 25 May Kick-off: 13:30 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC local radio, plus live score updates on the BBC Sport website and app

Holders Saracens will bid to return to Twickenham and defend their Premiership title when they host Gloucester in the first of the play-off semi-finals.

But the Cherry and Whites will hope to spring an upset and reach their first final since 2007, the same year they beat Saracens in the last four.

Head coach Johan Ackermann says “nothing that has gone before will matter in this one-off contest.”

The winner will face either Exeter or Northampton on Saturday 1 June.

Gloucester, who include Premiership player of the year Danny Cipriani at fly-half, finished third in the regular season and beat Saracens 30-24 at home in February.

But European Champions Cup winners Saracens were big winners in their other league meeting at Allianz Park in September and are looking to reach a seventh final.

“We’re playing a really good team. I think they’ve been building brilliantly for a while now,” Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“They signed really cleverly in the summer with the players they brought in and I think it’s a real game-changer for them.

“There’s a real solid look to their team with two experienced half-backs and their pack so we know they’re a good side.

“Because of that, it’s really focused the mind this week and we’re properly physically and emotionally recovered from the European Champions Cup final to go again.”

South African Ackermann, in his second season at Gloucester, is confident his team can prevail despite having lost on their past six visits to north London.

“It’s the team who scores that one point more who is going to win,” he told BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

“We respect Saracens for what they’ve achieved – a group who’ve been together for several years and won a host of trophies – so we know the challenge ahead.

“But, we have to believe and trust that our players are ready.”

Team news

Saracens rotated their squad for the final regular-season match at Worcester and their semi-final line-up features two enforced changes from the Champions Cup final win against Leinster.

Props Richard Barrington and Vincent Koch were early replacements for Mako Vunipola (hamstring) and Titi Lamositele (ankle) that day and keep their places.

Gloucester also rested their frontline operators against Sale last weekend and Charlie Sharples is the only survivor from that defeat. The winger will bid to add to his 10 Premiership tries so far in this campaign.

Willi Heinz returns as captain at scrum-half alongside Cipriani at fly-half.

Saracens: Goode; Williams, Lozowski, Barrett (capt), Maitland; Farrell, Spencer; Barrington, George, Koch, Skelton, Kruis, Itoje, Wray, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Gray, Adams-Hale, Judge, Isiekwe, Rhodes, Wigglesworth, Tompkins, Strettle.

Gloucester: Woodward; Sharples, Twelvetrees, Atkinson, Marshall; Cipriani, Heinz (capt); Hohneck, Marais, Balmain, Slater, Mostert, Ackermann, Kriel, Morgan.

Replacements: Sherry, Rapava Ruskin, Dreyer, Savage, Ludlow, Polledri, Vellacott, Purdy.

Referee: Luke Pearce.

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