The stage is set for retiring Saracens captain Steve Borthwick to lift the Aviva Premiership and bow out in style, according to former England teammate Lewis Moody.
Any thoughts of an historic Sarries double were snuffed out last Saturday as another departing hero in Jonny Wilkinson took the spoils, commandeering Toulon to a second successive Heineken Cup title.
Borthwick was arguably not at full strength for the clash – a shoulder injury had forced him to trudge off the field at Allianz Park for the very last time in the playoff semi-final win over Harlequins the week before.
But with one last crack at glory still to come, Moody – a winner of seven Premiership titles with Leicester Tigers – is convinced the 34-year-old lock will have a fitting last hurrah at Twickenham against Northampton Saints.
“Saracens have a lot of strength in depth but losing Borthwick would have been massive for them. He drives the standards up and especially at the lineouts, which are a niche area for him,” said Moody, who replaced Borthwick as England captain in 2010.
“He is never going to be one to standout but he leads his players by example and you know he’s going to get through an awful amount of work.
“I’m not sure how fit he still is but to not have him in your side would be a huge blow. There’s a lot of experience in that pack and a lot of guys to come in, but I don’t think there are any who can truly replace him.
“He is a brilliant captain and someone you can’t fail to have massive respect for – it would be a fitting way for him to bow out of the game with another Premiership title.
“It’s a tough one to call but I still think the advantage is with Saracens.
“Saracens are desperate to prove themselves, they feel like they are one of the best sides in Europe and I remember that’s how we felt at Leicester around the turn of the millennium.”
One man who has set about proving himself this season is Chris Ashton, unceremoniously dropped from England’s squad at the Six Nations before going on to set new standards in Europe.
His record-breaking 11 tries in this year’s – and the final – edition of the Heineken Cup will likely see him join up with England on their tour of New Zealand next month.
Moody is a first-hand witness to Ashton’s explosion onto the international scene four years ago, notching 15 tries in his first 17 games, and he believes the wing is approaching the same vein of form again.
“Chris is an interesting one, when I was England captain in 2010 I remember he couldn’t do anything wrong at the time – every time he touched the ball he would just score,” he added.
“But that almost came to a stop after 2011 and maybe he took his eye off the ball a little bit. But losing his place in the England team certainly seems to have served him well.
“He has rekindled his form and has got that spark back and that’s the most important thing. He has certainly had his critics but he can be a match winner on Saturday.”
Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover supports grassroots rugby and provides the opportunity for 7000 youngsters to take part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup.