Analysis: The Saracens approach - and experience - which saw them become Kings of England once more

After last season's heartbreak against Leicester, Mark McCall and Saracens shifted their philosophy to clinch the big prize in 2022-23
 While Saracens lifted the Premiership trophy on Saturday and eyes were drawn to their brilliance on the biggest stage in English club rugby, players and coaches alike paid tribute to their efforts throughout the year which set them up for their sixth domestic title.

They ended the regular season unbeaten at the StoneX - securing 10 victories - and away from home, they had a 50 per cent win rate. In the past two title-winning seasons, their home in North London has been a strongly defended fortress in the build-up to the trophy being lifted at Twickenham.


Alex Goode, who has now played in nine finals for Saracens and won six, credited the work of the squad throughout the year that led to their title-winning performance on Saturday.

He said: "I just think it's an example of us practising what we wanted to do and doing it all year, and then when it came to the biggest moment, we did it.

"Sometimes you can do it all year when there's no pressure and when it gets to the toughest moments you just get tight, and we didn't do that and we kept going and going. It wasn't perfect but jeez we played some great rugby out there and I think just that fight as well defensively when it mattered against Northampton and on Saturday was outstanding."

Teammate Elliot Daly additionally explained the way that the approach this season secured Saracens the silverware.

The back said: “Because they [Sale Sharks] were on top for about 10 or 12 minutes, we couldn’t get out of our half. That kind of set us up. We kicked past the halfway line, then got into our shape after that. We’ve been doing that all year really. If we get to the opposition half and 40-metre line, we’re a dangerous team.

"It’s about the way we’ve played this season as well, which probably hasn’t been the normal Saracens way. But it’s the way we have organically grown as a club. To come from the Champ year to get to the final last year was a brilliant achievement, but we thought we didn’t perform on the day, so this time it was about doing it and backing it up."

Reflecting on the work of the team throughout the season, Maro Itoje echoed the thoughts of his teammates and explained the extra level of fitness required in modern rugby as the game progresses.

He said: "You can’t really hold on to the past too much but going through the pain of last year, I think it is fair to say we have been fairly consistent all throughout the season. Even when the internationals were away, the guys again stepped up. And obviously, we have a few internationals, so those guys have been fantastic. Those guys are the ones that put us in the position that we are in today.

"They [the coaches] have been whooping our arse in training, they’ve been really pushing that. It is a necessity. The way the game is going, you always have to push it, you always have to try and improve otherwise you get left behind. We are trying to play a bit more expansive. We want to be a team that can do both really; play tight and then play wide. If you want to play wide consistently, you have to have the capacity to do so."

An advantage that Saracens had on Saturday, in particular, was their experience in finals which was key in backing up their performances that led them to Twickenham. 

Total number of Premiership finals played by position
 This has to be built over time and is a credit to the well-established Saracens squad. This interconnectedness and experience is something which Sale Sharks head coach Alex Sanderson is looking forward to developing with his relatively young side.

Sanderson himself was involved with Saracens as a player and coach for 17 years before he made the move to Sale Sharks, so knows all too well the steps that need to be taken to drive success. While understandably disappointed with the outcome, the head coach remained optimistic for the future of the club.

He said post-match: “I’m yet to pull them in and tell them to get used to this place [Twickenham]. There’s definitely still, from a few conversations I’ve had, a feeling that we’ll be here again.

"The odd fairytale does happen but rarely from my experience. You’ve just got to be better at handling moments like the ones that occurred today [on Saturday] and that takes experience.

"That’s what we got today, that’s what we’ll build on this season and we’ll just get better. We’re a young side, for the most part, got a few old heads in there, but generally, a young demographic who have found their feet in the big games. I’m sure after the crushing feeling I have right now of missed opportunity, the underlying emotion will be one of pride and excitement for what we can build on."

Saturday marked Sale captain Jono Ross’ final game due to his retirement, but he reinforced Sanderson’s confidence for the future.

He said: “I’m really proud of this group, I think we’ve grown and improved. It’s the start of an era and I think as long as we keep our heads down next year and improve, I don’t see why this group can’t be here fighting for titles year in, year out.

"There’s a lot of youth in this group and sometimes people say youth is ignorance, but I think they all took it in their stride. They were very relaxed before the game, no one seemed overawed or too tense. Genuinely for me, it was that sequence of play with us not scoring and them not scoring that turned the game. They’re a very good team, but I think this team will grow and I’m immensely proud of the group."

Average age of players in 2022-23 Gallagher Premiership final
 Player of the match on Saturday Owen Farrell is someone in particular at Saracens who has an abundance of lived experiences in high-pressure environments spanning from Premiership finals to a World Cup final. At the age of 31, he has played in nine Premiership finals for Saracens and has been involved in six wins. 

He led the victorious team with composure and confidence on Saturday and put in yet another stellar performance. Not only this, but his captaincy has been key to the success of the squad.

Head coach Mark McCall paid tribute to Farrell's dedication as a leader and the importance that the experienced players had in their hard-fought win.

He said: “For us to have him as the leader he is, if you spent a week at our training ground, you wouldn't believe just how influential he is. How clear he is with the playing group, how he motivates, what standards he sets, how supportive he is to teammates young and old. He’s playing the best rugby of his life at the moment as well but his leadership has gone to a whole new level.

"When the game was in the balance and it was 25-23 and we lacked a bit of energy, it wasn’t just Owen but our senior players grasped the metal really and saw us through very well in that last 15-20 minutes. We had a lot of control in that period of time and that’s down to their experience in those situations. They’ve been there and done it before and they showed all that experience when we needed it most."

Fellow club stalwart Goode was full of praise for the fly-half among others.

He said: “He's playing unbelievably well but he's always been a huge big match player. How many finals has he got man of the match? He's a competitor and it's a joy to play with him when you know he's going to stand up and be counted and take the fight to them. He did that defensively as much as in attack. He also believes in us as a backline.

"For Theo Dan to come on after 10 minutes and showcase he's that good and ready for the next step is unbelievable. It comes from the senior players. Maro was outstanding, Ben Earl was brilliant. There are too many people to name but to a man, everybody fought incredibly hard because we had to go and win that game a few times.

"It would have been easy for us to get disheartened because there were chances we didn't quite score but we were resilient and kept coming."

Widely regarded as the most competitive rugby union league in the can only be the Gallagher Premiership.

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