Hill's return gives Saracens the feel-good factor

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The Independent Online

The feet of the England World Cup winners, Richard Hill and Kyran Bracken, will be firmly back on the ground on Sunday when Saracens entertain the Zurich Premiership's bottom club, Rotherham.

At first sight it would appear to be a descent from the globally sublime to the ridiculously mundane, but the presence of England's blind-side flanker, Hill, and their scrum-half, Bracken, at the club's Vicarage Road ground in Watford should be enough to put a lot more bums on seats, and Saracens back-room staff are working flat out to ensure that they do that.

The last time Rotherham played at Vicarage Road three seasons ago in September 2000, just 2,800 people were persuaded to go through the turnstiles.

This time around the Yorkshire club, having lost their opening 10 Premiership fixtures are not a great crowd draw, but Saracens are aiming to treble that figure.

The club's chief executive officer, Mark Sinderberry, said: "There has been a huge increase in phone calls since the World Cup final, with fans wanting tickets both in the stands and corporate areas for our game against Rotherham."

The "Sydney Factor" does not stop there though: the club reported that inquiries about season tickets and membership had kept the phones ringing since the weekend. They have also been fielding calls from parents asking about links with mini-rugby sections and requesting details.

The club also revealed that as England progressed through the tournament, hits on the Saracens website increased with each match. "We have been carrying interviews with Richard Hill throughout the World Cup," said the club's press officer, Mike Hartwell, and the increase in website hits was quite dramatic."

The importance of Hill and Bracken is not underestimated by the club, which is owned by multi-millionaire rugby lover Nigel Wray. Their coach, Rod Kafer, said: "It's no coincidence that England's return to form in the World Cup came about when Richard [Hill] was back in the side. He has been a substantial influence on the England performance and we're hoping that his return to Saracens will have the same effect.

"The news that he wants to make an appearance on Sunday is a really positive one for the club. Obviously we'll have a chat when he turns up for training later this week, get him looked at by the physios and then take it from there but if everything goes well and he still feels the same then of course, we'll always find room for him in the 22 as would any coach in the world.

"We're also hoping that Kyran is in the same boat and having two players who have just reached the heights that they have will have a positive influence on the players here, whether they are on the pitch, on the bench or in the stands."

* The former Springbok prop Cobus Visagie yesterday signed for Saracens on what is believed to be an 18-month contract. He will be joined next Monday by the hooker Raphael Ibañez, the former France captain.