Oct 19, 2015
McCall reacts to opening win
Director of rugby Mark McCall was pleased with Saracens’ all-round display in their five try 41-3 win over Sale Sharks at Allianz Park on Saturday afternoon.
The reigning Aviva Premiership Champions opened their 2015/16 account with a thumping win over the Sharks, with several players impressing in a fine team performance against Steve Diamond’s side, and McCall has challenged his side to carry the momentum of Saturday’s win into Friday evening’s clash away to Gloucester at Kingsholm.
“We are obviously very happy with the result but the standard of our performance is even more pleasing,” said McCall after the game. “I think today was all about getting our fundamentals of our game at a decent level and I thought we did that. Defensively we did really well and we were able to attack from that – it wasn’t the score line we were expecting, but we played pretty well.
“Sale are a club that I admire a lot. They have a lot of good players and have had the same players in the squad for a couple of years now so we knew we had to get our fundamentals right, get our scrum right, get our lineout right – I thought our options from the set-piece were very good.
“Charlie Hodgson and Neil de Kock controlled the first 25 minutes, despite the fact we were playing into a bit of a breeze we were able to most of the attacking and that attacking came of the back of doing the basics very well.
“We have a tremendously difficult game on Friday now. Gloucester are a much improved team and they will be at full-strength when the welcome their England and Wales players back next week. Kingsholm is really tough place to go, but we’ll go over there and roll up our sleeves and give it our best.”
There was a multitude of positives for the Saracens director of rugby could take away from their first showing of the season. Debutant Mike Rhodes crossed for a try in a superb performance from the blindside flanker, whilst wing Mike Ellery caught the eye crossing for a well-taken brace of tries in his first ever Premiership outing for the north Londoners.
Saracens returning England duo of Jamie George and Alex Goode also impressed, whilst the sight of Will Fraser dotting the ball down for his comeback try in the second half rounded off a great day at the office for the Men in Black.
“We’re chuffed for Mike Ellery who has been brilliant in terms of his appetite for learning,” said McCall. “In the last 12 months we’ve seen the best of him in the LV=Cup and the A-League and obviously this is the next step up for him – he did really well today.
“Michael Rhodes looked very good, he’s a really good carrier and was great today. He’s had a great preseason and we knew he was a good player when we brought him in as he’s played a lot of rugby.
“His work-rate was excellent and so was his collision work – when he hits you know about it. He’s a great player and we’re really looking forward to seeing more of him.”
“We all wanted Will to come off the bench and play the way Will plays. He’s had a very good preseason after coming back from a pretty serious injury and he looked pretty good today. We’re happy for him that he got the try, but his general play was also very good. The person Will replaced, Kelly Brown had an outstanding game who was right up there with anyone out there for Man of the Match.”
On Saracens returning Rugby World Cup contingent McCall added: “We have 16 players coming back from various World Cup teams and we brought a couple back into today to start the match who hadn’t played too much.
“I thought Jamie (George) and Alex (Goode) added a lot. The difference they made was enormous, not just their playing ability (which was obvious) for everyone to see, but their personalities, the direction and the guidance they bring to the team. George (Kruis) and Mako (Vunipola) added a lot when they come on too.
“The next few weeks will be about making sensible decisions, we don’t chop and change too much but that we do integrate them back in. At the moment there’s no more important game than our next one and the 23 who are picked will be wanting to get stuck in.”