Saracens - Introducing the #Sarries6

Apr 19, 2017

Introducing the #Sarries6

Saracens will have six players on the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand. The Allianz Park side is the most represented club side with Owen Farrell, Jamie George, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Mako Vunipola and Billy Vunipola all included in the 41-man squad.

Four players have come through the ranks at Saracens famed academy system, whilst the Vunipola brothers both joined Sarries before their 21st birthdays.

We take a closer look at the #Sarries6 who will head Down Under for the tour that begins in June.

Jamie George

Jamie George’s Lions inclusion marks the culmination of a career in rugby at the highest level for seven years. He has made 115 Premiership appearances for Saracens and has now gained 17 England caps in the last two years.

Having been born nearby in Welwyn Garden City, George played for Hertford RFC in his youth before being picked up by the Sarries academy, the club he supported as a boy, at the age of 14.

He has come from a rugby playing family and has gone on to exceed the achievements of his father, a former Northampton Saints, London Welsh and Barbarians scrum half, by becoming a regular for his country.

The 26-year-old is one of a trio of academy products alongside fellow 2017 Lions George Kruis and Owen Farrell known as the Class of ’08.

Sharing the hooker position with the experienced Schalk Brits, he has found himself at the heart of the Saracens team that has won three Premiership titles (2011, 2015 and 2016) as well as the Champions Cup in 2016.

He made his test debut in 2015, earning a call up to the World Cup squad, and went on to star in England’s victorious tour of Australia in 2016 where he made match winning impacts off the bench.

George has also played a part in England’s successive Six Nations triumphs and fans will feel that his selection is vindicated as a result.

George Kruis

George Kruis has earned his Lions call-up against the odds this year. An injury before Christmas curtailed his progress and he only made his return against Northampton Saints last Sunday.

However, Warren Gatland has clearly seen what Kruis brings to the table as one of Europe’s foremost line-out specialists.

His partnership with Maro Itoje will be something for Lions fans to look out for as they have combined superbly for Saracens and England ever since they paired up for the first time in 2015.

Born in Guildford, Surrey he played youth rugby for Dorking RFC, winning the U17 National Cup. He was picked up by Saracens in 2008 and made an immediate impression on the staff thanks to his attention to detail when it came to line-out preparation.

After being a successful performer at age group level and the Saxons for England, he finally earned his first senior England cap in the 2014 QBE Internationals. He was also named in the England squad for the 2015 World Cup amongst a strong contingent of locks.

Since then he has gone on to cement his place in the starting tight five for England following his contribution in the 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam.

For Sarries, he has been part of the group that has won three Premiership titles (2011, 2015 and 2016) and the Champions Cup in 2016. His 88 Premiership games have been coupled with 20 caps and Lions recognition is just another chapter in what is a burgeoning career.

Maro Itoje

Maro itoje has experienced a meteoric rise since his Saracens debut in 2014. At only 22 years of age, he will be the youngest member of the touring party but this is not something that has held the 6”6’ forward back before.

A graduate of the Saracens academy, he joined the senior ranks after leaving school in 2013 and has been an integral part of the squad ever since. His immense power is coupled with effortless grace on the pitch and for a forward he is truly a joy to watch.

Since his debut, the natural leader has captained Saracens to victory in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, whilst becoming a key member of the first team for both Saracens and England.

During his time as a regular starter he has also won two Premiership titles, one European Champions Cup and two Six Nations titles with England.

As a graduate from the Saracens Academy, he had the benefit of learning his trade from his hero, Steve Borthwick. Since Borthwick’s retirement in 2014, the apprentice has surely become the master with Itoje emerging as one of the premier players in World rugby in 2016.

The season saw him win accolades such as Land Rover Discovery of the Season, Man of the Match in the European Champions Cup final, European Player of the Year and World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year.

Owen Farrell

Making his debut at the age of 17, Saracens’ youngest ever player and a stalwart of international rugby for over five years, Farrell has enjoyed a career that stands up to most in world rugby and is still only 26.

As the son of a rugby league great and former England centre Andy, there were always expectations that Owen would have a successful rugby playing career.

However, few could have predicted just how successful it would be as he has gone on to be a crucial player for club and country with his game management and goal-kick prowess, as well as becoming a British and Irish Lion for the first time in 2013.

He made one test appearance, coming on against Australia during the deciding third test as the Lions triumphed.

He has played a crucial role in the Saracens squad since his breakthrough. His kicks helped Sarries to victory over Leicester Tigers in the 2011 Premiership Final and he has gone from strength to strength ever since.

A senior England call up became inevitable and in 2012 he was named the England squad for that year’s Six Nations. He started every game for England in that tournament with his versatility enabling him to cover both inside centre and fly half in the starting 15.

Owen’s performances that year led to him being nominated, alongside Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, for 2012 IRB Player of the Year.

Having won another Premiership title in 2015, he went on to win the 2016 Six Nations grand-slam along with the Premiership and Champions Cup double that same season to cement his place as one of World Rugby’s finest.

Mako Vunipola

The older of the Vunipola brothers and a veteran of the 2013 British and Irish Lions series win in Australia, Mako Vunipola has emerged as one of the finest loosehead props in World Rugby.

Educated at Millfield School, the son of a former Tonga captain Fe’ao and Methodist Minister, Rev. Iesinga Vunipola he was a prodigious talent, representing England at U18 and U20 levels.

His professional breakthrough came at Bristol, where he made 35 appearances before joining Saracens in 2011.

It was with Sarries where he went from strength to strength, starring in the team during the 2011-12 title defence before gaining international recognition with a senior England call-up in the Autumn internationals of 2012.

His form continued and he was called up for the 2013 tour of Australia by Warren Gatland where he played in all three tests as the tourists emerged with a first series win since 1997.

Since then, he has gained 42 England caps and featured in the 2016 Grand Slam triumph before overcoming injury to help the Red Rose successfully defend their title in 2017.

For Sarries, he has starred, helping the club to two successive Premiership titles in 2015 and 2016 as well as winning the Champions Cup in 2016 as part of an historic double.

His 2017 call-up comes as part of a successful season for the 26-year-old who has seen his place at the top of the Lions pecking order cemented by some rock-sold performances that have showcased his fantastic skill as Sarries push to defend their 2016 double in 2017.

Billy Vunipola

An imposing Number 8, known as much for his bruising carries as his relaxed demeanour Billy Vunipola has established himself as one of the premier loose forwards playing the game today.

Also capped at England U18 and U20 levels, Billy is part of a distinguished Tongan rugby dynasty, his brother Mako is also an England international and their father Fe’ao, a hooker won 32 caps for his country, figured in the 1995 and 1999 World Cups and played for Pontypool.

He arrived at Saracens in 2013 from Wasps and has since developed from a rough diamond into an accomplished back-row threat. He has been integral in Saracens’ recent success, starring during the 2015 and 2016 Premiership triumphs as well as the 2016 Champions Cup victory.

Appointed one of England’s vice-captains in 2016, Billy has taken on a leadership role for both Club and country and alongside his brother Mako, committed his future to Saracens in the summer of 2016 signing a ‘multi-year’ deal to remain at the Club.

A Six Nations Grand-Slam triumph in 2016 was backed up by a successful title defence in 2017 after he was nominated as one of three Saracens players on the six-man shortlists for World Rugby Player of the Year.

By Will Freeman

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