Season Preview: Saracens

Last Season

After the heartbreak of the previous season, Saracens made history and became the first team who finished outside the top two to win the Premiership. Their traditional heroic defence was aided by the sharp finishing of David Strettle and Chris Ashton to ensure that they scored at most opportunities. Meanwhile in the European Champions Cup, Saracens were the only English team to reach the semi finals after a last gasp win at Racing Metro.

Players In
• Samuela Vunisa (Flanker, Zebre)
• Michael Rhodes (Lock, Stormers)
• Maro Itoje (Flanker, promoted from Academy)
• Joel Conlon (Back Row, Exeter Chiefs)

Opting not to change a winning formula, Saracens have recruited just three players. However, perhaps the most important addition to the squad is Maro Itoje who has been promoted from the academy. The prodigious lock is still just 20 but has easily made the transition from age group to professional rugby. After captaining Saracens to an LV= Cup triumph, he was rewarded with a place at flanker in the Champions Cup semi-final defeat against Clermont as well as in the Premiership Final. Far from being overawed, Itoje was one of the standout performers on both occasions proving that he is currently the most exciting young player in the Premiership.

Players Out
• Eoin Sherriff (Lock, London Irish)
• David Strettle (Wing, Clermont Auvergne)
• James Johnston (Prop, Wasps)
• Thretton Palamo (Centre, London Welsh)
• Nick de Jager (Flanker, Exeter Chiefs)

Even with Saracens’ famed strength in depth, David Strettle is a huge loss for the team. He scored tries in the Premiership alone last season, forming a lethal partnership with Chris Ashton. Despite being named in England’s original 50 man training squad, Strettle decided not to take part and instead help settle his family in France. James Johnston’s departure is another blow but with Juan Figallo and Petrus Du Plessis still there, it is not as big a loss as it may seem.

Hopes and Fears for next season
There is not much that Saracens could do better next season after a trophy laden one last year. They may hope to seriously challenge for the Champions Cup having been close in the last two seasons.
A failure to qualify for the semi-finals and to emerge from the Champions Cup pool would be an unmitigated disaster for Saracens who pride themselves on thriving in knockout games under pressure.

Key Player
The talisman who epitomises Saracens, Jacques Burger, will retire at the end of the season. He will be determined to produce more outstanding defensive efforts this season to cap a remarkable career.

LWOS Prediction
The most settled looking team in the Premiership may defend their crown.

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