Club-by-club guide: Saracens

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The Independent Online

Director of Rugby: Eddie Jones

Captains: Steve Borthwick, Andy Farrell

IN

Steve Borthwick (Bath), Wickus van Heerden (Blue Bulls), Michael Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ben Jacobs (Waratahs), Brad Barritt (Sharks)

OUT

Richard Hill (retired), Paul Gustard (retired), Alan Dickens (Northampton), Iain Fullarton (London Scottish), Kevin Yates (released)

First five games

Sep 6 Harlequins (Twickenham )

Sep 12 Sale Sharks (A)

Sep 21 Newcastle Falcons (H)

Sep 27 Northampton Saints (H)

Oct 01 Bristol Rugby (A)

Lessons from last season

Consecutive performances against the Ospreys summed up Sarries’ season quite accurately. In the first, the EDF Cup semi-final, they were annihilated, then, a week later, they murdered the Welshmen in the Heineken Cup. It was the kind of inconsistency that robbed a talented squad of a top four finish. A preoccupation with reaching the last four in Europe may have had something to do with it, but having recruited some biggame players this summer, new director of rugby Eddie Jones will be aiming high.

Weaknesses

He played virtually on one leg last season but Richard Hill (left) was still a huge presence on the field and his unrivalled groundwork will be missed in the back row. In the midfield they may also be a little one-paced with senior statesmen Kev Sorrell and Andy Farrell in tandem. Youngster Adam Powell will need to step up to the mark to add some speed.

Strengths

The Sarries lineout should be formidable with Chris Jack and new signing Steve Borthwick (below) in harness, while the Sarries scrum showed it can live with the best last season. In the backs Glen Jackson likes to unleash his widemen at every opportunity, which is why speedster Richard Haughton excelled last term.

Player to watch

The Fez-heads are very excited to see Wickus van Heerden pull on the black shirt. Signed as a replacement for Richard Hill, he is set to arrive from the Blue Bulls no later than November. Big, strong and a real presence around the pitch, van Heerden also has a nose for the try line. Premiership back rows have been warned.

Did you know?

Saracens’ 49-point haul in victory over Wasps in the 1998 Tetley Bitter Cup final at Twickenham equalled the record score, set by Bath against Gloucester (48-6) in 1990, for a final.

Prediction

Saracens have the strength in depth, and the quality, to make the semis.

3rd

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