Apr 14, 2017
Super Dunc set to join the 100 Club
Duncan Taylor will run-out for his 100th Saracens appearance on Sunday, as Saracens face Northampton Saints at Stadium:MK in round 20 of the Aviva Premiership. We take a closer look at the Men in Black’s latest inductee of the 100 Club.
“The most relaxed competitive person I know,” said Director of Rugby Mark McCall when asked to describe Duncan Taylor. The reigning Saracens Players Player of the Season, Super Dunc as he is affectionately known, is a laidback, affable presence amongst the steely-eyed pros at Saracens - this weekend he will run out for his 100th Saracens appearance, bringing the number of centurions in the current Saracens squad to 16.
Season So Far
It’s been a frustrating 2016/17 for Taylor, who has only made six appearances and has only started in two games. An ankle injury picked up in Saracens round one win over Worcester Warriors at the London Double Header followed by a hamstring injury and head knock later in the season robbed Taylor of a glut of Saracens games plus the Six Nations for Scotland. The good news for Duncan, and Saracens fans, is that he looks to be back to his best and his Man of the Match performance at Wembley Stadium highlighted the fact that he is back fit and firing at the business end of the season.
34 players since 2009 have pulled on both the Bedford and Saracens jersey, but Duncan Taylor could very-well be the stand-out success story of the club’s special relationship.
“I was never part of any age-grade system,” Taylor said in an interview with the Telegraph in 2016. “I was not that great a player growing up, I was not as committed growing up as I was when I was older. I was a plodder, very one-paced, I looked like a Labrador”.
Taylor’s childhood was split between England, Scotland and Australia following his father, pharmaceutical salesman. His nomadic upbringing maybe a reason why he never was picked up by any club. His journey started in Buckinghamshire, not far from the place where Taylor will be making his 100th appearance for the reigning English and European champions, Milton Keynes (sport can be a funny old game, eh?) playing at Olney RFC 10 miles from Stadium:MK where Taylor used to work as a teenager.
“I used to get a free burger and chips at the end of my shift. I was 17 or 18 and I spent a season working in a kiosk selling burgers and chips at all MK Dons home games.
“I grew up in Olney and that was only about ten minutes down the road, so it was ideal for me at the time."
Taylor was invited to train by Bedford and whilst with the Blues he played his way up the ranks at Goldington Road, spending two years with the Club’s colts side before graduating to their Championship team with who he reached the Championship semi-finals on two occasions. During his time with Bedford, Taylor impressed, being nominated for Young Player of the Year award as well winning the Academy player of the year award during his time with the Club.
Stepping Up For Sarries
Duncan joined Saracens as a dual-registered player for the 2011/12 season and has since gone on to make 99 appearances for the north Londoners. Since joining Saracens Taylor has become known at the Club for his work rate and versatility and Mark McCall is one of the first to sing the centre’s praises: “Duncan is probably one of the game’s most underrated players. He can cover so many positions and I don’t think he gets the credit for the wonderful work he can do off the ball. His work-rate and contribution to this team is enormous.”
It's something echoed by Forwards and Defence coach, Alex Sanderson: “If there’s anything that Duncan has above most people, and you could ask any of the senior players this, it’s his work-rate and his intensity.” He added, “If someone’s going to chase a kick down with that extra 5%, if someone’s going to work hard and be honest in terms of the effort they put in, which are two of our values as a club, then it’s going to be Duncan Taylor.”
In his 99 games, Taylor has played a key role in Saracens recent success. He featured heavily in Saracens double-winning season, scoiring a try in the Premiership final against Exeter Chiefs and was voted Players Player of the Season in club's most succesful season ever. He's featured mainly at centre, but has also played on either wing and has also filled in at full-back for Mark McCall's side.
Flowering for Scotland
Qualified for Scotland through his parents, Duncan made his International debut against Samoa in 2013 yet of his 18 caps gained since, nine of which have come as part of the starting XV. Taylor missed the 2015 World Cup through a calf injury but his 2016 Six Nations campaign he announced himself on the international stage with a series of wonderful performances. A try saving tackle plus a try of his own against Wales and a mazy run against France were some of the stand-out moments.
Injury robbed him of the 2017 Six Nations, and perhaps a late charge for Warren Gatland’s Lions squad.
The Challenge Ahead
“It’s been a long old year. It’s been tough at times but being out makes you really relish the opportunity to play again and I’m excited for every game that we’ve got left now.” Taylor will be relishing a clash with Saracens old-foes Northampton Saints with the Men in Black naming a much-changed side with players such as skipper Brad Barritt, halfback Richard Wigglesworth, England men Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola all missing from the squad and regulars Mike Rhodes, Chris Ashton and Billy Vunipola named on the bench.
Taylor will be one of Saracens more experienced players in the starting line-up, and will become one of five 100 club members in the starting XV.
“I think that everyone is pumped for it,” said Taylor. “We’re coming off the back of playing at Wembley and this is obviously going to feel a little different but it’s another great stadium and there should be an exciting atmosphere.
“I think it will feel like a neutral ground on the day and we’ve got to be up for it because it’s going to be a difficult game against Northampton.”