In common with most of my fellow Saracens fans I waited with baited breath for the team announcement for this second Champions Cup match. That will be a weekly occurrence […]
In common with most of my fellow Saracens fans I waited with baited breath for the team announcement for this second Champions Cup match. That will be a weekly occurrence for the rest of the season with the predicament the club finds itself in. A 35 point deduction means the club will be fighting to avoid relegation, while at the same time attempting to be competitive in Europe.
In 2019-20 players are limited to 30 full games or 35 match involvements (of 20 minutes or more). That counts across the whole of the league, although domestic players would be hard pressed to exceed that number.
For international players that’s a different matter, Saracens had 9 players who featured in England’s World Cup campaign (including warm ups), with most of them seeing a lot of game time – individually that adds up to – (hopefully I’ve counted right)
- Mako Vunipola – 3 matches
- Jamie George – 7 matches
- Jack Singleton – 1 match
- Maro Itoje – 7 matches
- George Kruis – 8 matches
- Billy Vunipola – 9 matches
- Ben Spencer – 1 match But not long enough to count (The Final amazingly!)
- Owen Farrell – 8 matches
- Elliot Daly – 9 matches
Add in potential 6 Nations call ups (a further 5 games) and the game time for those involved in England alone, will need careful management. The 30 game limit really is vital to ensure the well-being of the players, add in the incredibly intense pre- World Cup training camps and that limit becomes even more important in this season.
Saracens have for many years had a policy of squad rotation, it’s something they’re used to doing as a team, but for this year, more than any other, how that’s worked out will matter more than ever.
I imagine key fixtures have already been assessed as far as the Premiership is concerned, every single point is going to count this season. 4 games have been played so far and Saracens sit rock bottom on -22. 26 points below Leicester Tigers. There are a further 18 matches to be played, 72 points or 90 with a bonus point, at stake. Last season Exeter Chiefs and Saracens ran away with the league, with Chiefs finishing on 86 points and Saracens on 78. Gloucester finished 3rd on 68. Things feel more balanced across the league this season, Saracens would’ve finished 10th last season with the 35 point deduction; this season? Only time will tell.
That took me off on something of a tangent and so to the game against the Ospreys – they found themselves without a virtual Welsh rugby team, including – Alun Wyn Jones, George North, Justin Tipuric, Gareth Anscombe, Cory Allen, Dan Baker, James King, Luke Morgan, Keelan Giles, Sam Perry, Gareth Evans and Dan Lydiate. Add Scott Williams who wasn’t selected too! That’s was a depleted team to say the least.
A couple of big names were added to the Saracens team that lost in Paris, with Elliot Daly making his debut at Full Back, Brad Barritt back at 12 with the captain’s arm band and Mako Vunipola started in place of Rhys Carre. Tom Whitely started at 9, Alex Lewington on the wing in place of Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor started ahead of Alex Lozowski.
I’ve always been a fan of Daly, I’m not sure I’ve been a fan of him playing at 15, he hasn’t shone there for me in an England shirt. However yesterday he played a great game, linking with Rotimi Segun as if they’d been playing together for years.
Where so much went wrong with Saracens game in Paris, virtually everything went right at Allianz Park. The stats were a turn around from that loss, with one such being, 13 of 15 line outs won on their own throw. I believe Jack Singleton didn’t get one wrong, he must’ve put in a lot of practice during the week.
The home team had 59% possession and 62 % territory, running 412 metres to Ospreys 223. Saracens made 156 passes, and 121 runs, kicking from the hand 28 times. Daly’s strengths lie in those stats, he’s going to provide so much in the way of additional attacking prowess.
What those stats all add up to is an emphatic win for Saracens, they scored 5 tries, with Segun powering in, at speed, for 2, Lewington combining with Segun to score out on his own wing. Add to that two muscle/forwards tries from Singleton and Barrington and a penalty try awarded, just before it was touched down.
Ospreys, understandably struggled, scoring a single penalty- that all adds up to Saracens 44 Ospreys 3. Elliot Daly received the Man Of The Match plaudit, but it could’ve gone to the majority of the team. Manu Vunipola at just 19 years old, ran the game from 10, Ben Earl and Nick Isiekwe both Academy graduates are building a great partnership in the back row alongside Jackson Wray.
A draw in the other pool match between Munster and Racing: with more individual brilliance on show by Finn Russell has made the table an interesting one. Saracens play Munster back to back in the next 2 rounds.
It’s great to see Premiership teams doing well in the European Cups, with Northampton Saints, Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins and Sale recording wins in the Champions Cup so far this weekend (15:30 on Sunday). London Irish, Wasps and Leicester Tigers in the Challenge Cup – Long may it continue!