Nov 13, 2017
Saracens return to Aviva Premiership Action
Saracens are back in Aviva Premiership action this week, when Mark McCall’s table toppers head to Kingsholm to face Gloucester Rugby on Friday evening.
After the disappointment of losing their Champions of England tag to Exeter Chiefs last season, the story so far for the Men in Black in the English top-flight has been six wins out of seven league games for the north Londoners.
In recent years, Saracens famed ‘Wolfpack’ defence has won many admirers in the club’s recent successes, but during the opening block for the Premiership fixtures Sarries' attacking game has really come to the fore.
Sarries are the competition’s leading points scorers (249), try scorers (31) and lead the way in clean breaks (96) and metres made (3,781). Alex Goode has been at the forefront of Saracens attacking renaissance with the mercurial 29-year old full-back showing the same kind of form that won him the Aviva Premiership Player of the Season in 2016. Goode leads the OPTA charts for metres made (698) and leads the way in terms of carries (91) defenders beaten (18) in the Sarries charts.
Goode’s long-term back-three partner in crime Chris Wyles is showing no signs of slowing down as his career heads into ‘evergreen pro’ status at the age of 34. The former USA skipper is club’s leading try scorer in the league, crossing the whitewash five times for far this season and he leads the way in line breaks (11) for Saracens in the Aviva Premiership. Wyles is now on 34 tries scored for Sarries in the top-flight, alongside former flyer Richard Haughton (34) and behind the prolific David Strettle (35) & Chris Ashton (44) in the club’s all-time Premiership try scoring tally.
Saracens could be without the set-piece prowess of lock trio, George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Nick Isiekwe, all three have been included in England head coach Eddie Jones 35-man training squad ahead of England’s second Test of the Old Mutual Wealth Series against Australia on Saturday.
Kruis is the club’s lineout king, winning 26 lineouts to Isiekwe’s (21) and Itoje’s (18) in five league games this season. Itoje, who has featured in six games before being rested in Saracens’ clash against London Irish at Allianz Park in round seven, leads the way in tackles made (65) and has won 8 turnovers - the most in the league. The welcome return of Wallaby lock Will Skelton will bolster Mark McCall’s lock-forward stocks after scoring his first try for the club in an impressive 55-minute display against Sale Sharks in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Friday. Mark Flanagan’s return from a loan-spell with Munster after Welshman Dominic Day was ruled out with injury also adds to the club’s lock cover.
With some of the club’s international players away experienced heads such as Brad Barritt, Schalk Brits, Jackson Wray and Richard Wigglesworth have traditionally put their hands-up during the autumn internationals and Six Nations period.
Wray, who continues to shine in Saracens’ back-row, has made 87 carries so far this season, the most of any Saracens forward with his director of rugby Mark McCall echoing the calls for the academy graduate to join seven of his Sarries teammates in Eddie Jones’ England set-up. Veteran hooker Schalk Brits will play a key role with Jamie George and Christopher Tolofua away on international duty and the entertaining former Springbok front-rower has always showed this season he is still capable of his dazzling best at the ripe old-age of 36. He was named Man of the Match in Saracens’ opening day 55-24 win over Northampton Saints and he leads the offloads charts (9) for the club this season.
Brad Barritt and Richard Wigglesworth both recently passed Premiership appearance milestones, with club captain Barritt bringing up his 200th club appearance against Wasps in round six and his 150th league appearance against London Irish a week later. In the same game, experienced half-back Wigglewsorth made his 250th league appearance, just the fifth player to appear in 250 top-flight matches – joining the likes of his former Sarries teammate Steve Borthwick and Charlie Hodgson and ex Saints, Newcastle and Worcester forward Phil Dowson and former Sarries and Leicester Tigers hooker George Chuter in the exclusive 250 club.
After Gloucester, Saracens face second placed Exeter Chiefs, with the reigning English Champions heading to Allianz Park. Last season’s home clash against the Chiefs was a 13-13 draw in which Sarries had to play the majority of the game with 14-men after Richard Barrington’s 11th minute red card. Tickets for the clash can be purchased here.
A week later, Saracens will travel to Harlequins, hoping for their first win at the Stoop in since September 2014 when the north Londoners came away with a 39-0 win.