The Rise of Saracens – and Can Anyone Overthrow Them?

  • Mark McCall’s side are early favourites to win the regular season, the play-off final and the European Champions Cup.
  • The side have won Five Premiership titles in nine years.
  • Saracens have been referred to Sports Resolutions for allegedly breaching the £7m salary cap.

While the spine of Saracens’ side head out to Japan to represent England on the biggest stage of international rugby, the 2019 Rugby World Cup, it won’t be long before the Gallagher Premiership is underway for another season. Current champions, Saracens rise to glory may be controversial to some, but there’s no doubting that the North London club are history makers.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup is the ninth Rugby World Cup, and is being held in Japan from 20 September to 2 November. This is the first time the tournament is being held in Asia, and outside the traditional heartland of rugby union.

The stats don’t lie. Five Premiership titles in nine years, more specifically four in the last five seasons; three European Champions Cups in four years; and just last season, the Sarries managed the domestic and international double. Once again, in Rugby Union betting, Mark McCall’s side are early favourites to win the regular season, the play-off final and the European Champions Cup. Whether or not they can live up to expectations and retain their incredible double, is yet to be seen.

Last season was proof, if any was needed, that McCall’s Sarries are English club rugby’s greatest ever team. In the Premiership final, in particular, the squad showed such a level of belief and determination to overturn an 11-point deficit to snatch glory from the Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham – despite the Chiefs finishing top of the table at the end of the regular season. The two share a similar rise to glory, and if anyone can overhaul the Saracens this coming season, no doubt, it’ll be the Devonshire outfit.

One player who knows better than anyone the magnitude of the club’s achievements on the pitch is Owen Farrell. He joined the North London club as a 14-year-old and made his debut at the age of 17, while his dad (Andy Farrell) was still playing for the club. It was a season to forget for Saracens, with the club finishing third from bottom. From the depths of despair came ‘Black Monday’, which saw several players culled ahead of the following season (2009-10). Farrell was one of few that survived an overhaul that was necessary according to then head coach, Brendan Venter. Internally known as ‘the revolution’ it was a bold move that has had a positive impact on the club.

Fast-forward 14 years and much like a phoenix rising from the ashes, here Saracens are – although it’s clear that no-one could have predicted the successes the club now have. One key to their success is how the club have nurtured the homegrown talent – with a number of players, Farrell included, academy players in 2008, who over the course of the following decade but within the following decade, gone on to become integral parts of the last five years’ triumphs.

The opening match of the 2019 Rugby World Cup took place at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Chōfu, Tokyo.

As we have mentioned their rise has not been short of controversy. Like modern-day football, in rugby, money talks. In the same way the English Premier League has a large gulf between the ‘top six’ and the rest of the division, for many of the Gallagher Premiership’s clubs, they’re small fish in a big pond – with Saracens and Exeter Chiefs not too dissimilar to Manchester City and Liverpool. Without the financial backing of Nigel Wray, the club wouldn’t have been able to attract big name stars from both the UK and overseas; they certainly, would not have been able to afford their new home Allianz Park in Hendon. The 10,000-capacity stadium has been their home since 2013 and has served them well since moving from Vicarage Road, the ground they shared with Watford Football Club.

However, it’s not all plain-sailing and recently it was reported that Saracens have been referred to Sports Resolutions for allegedly breaching the £7m salary cap. Should they be found guilty, the maximum sanction would be a 35-point deduction – nothing to a club of that stature. With a squad a big as the Sarries is, it’s likely the deduction wouldn’t be enough to relegate McCall’s side, given their league dominance. However, many of their fellow Premiership clubs are calling for a larger sanction.

Saracens will begin their title defence against Northampton Saints on October 19th, while on November 17th, they’ll face French giants, Racing 2 in their opening match of the Champions Cup. With 15 absentees on international duty, Saracens have the most players of any Premiership side out in Japan so it will be interesting to see how they cope at the start of the season – perhaps it’s a chance for the other title contenders to take advantage.

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Alan Green

Sports & Gaming PR Executive

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