Who Can Stop Saracens This Year?

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From Last Word on Rugby, Sam Pardey

After seeing off Wasps and Toulon in successive weeks the question is, can anyone stop Saracens this year?

Who Can Stop Saracens?

A destructive display by the Sarries saw them beat Toulon, despite playing nearly a quarter of the game with 14-men. The reigning Premiership and European Champions saw two players sin-binned, but this didn’t stop them recording a 31-23 victory at Stade Mayol. Following a 30-14 humbling of Wasps the week before, Saracens are currently looking untouchable.

What makes them so good?

Saracens game is built on brutal defence and game management, but there is much more to it than that. Their pack is a match for any team in the world, combining solid set piece with attacking flair. Itoje and Kruis are a lethal combination in the engine room with players such as the Vunipola brothers and Schalk Burger offering an attacking threat. Combined with the underrated yet impressive work of Jackson Wray, Sarries can match anyone up front.

In the backs, Wigglesworth and Farrell’s excellent game-management ensures Sarries always play the game in the right areas of the pitch. Even with Farrell missing the start of the domestic season, Lozowski stepped up to show Saracens strength in depth. In the centres, the defensive wrecking-ball that is Brad Barritt, alongside Bosch, ensures Sarries are hard to break down. This destructive, managed game allows them a platform to exploit out wide. This is a part of their game they have really developed over the last 18 months, with Wyles, Maitland, Goode and Ashton (when not suspended) providing attacking talent.

Who can stop them?

Last year, Sarries looked untouchable on their way to a domestic and continental double. In the league Exeter Chiefs were the second best team, yet they were easily swept aside in the final. In Europe, Racing 92 were beaten 21-9 in the final despite boasting the likes of Dan Carter in their team.

This season Sarries have simply carried on where they left off. Having already recorded victories against last year’s finalist Exeter and this year’s leading contenders Wasps, Sarries look untouchable. The play-off system employed in the Premiership means that other teams will be in with a chance until the final game, but it would take a brave person to bet against Sarries being at Twickenham on May 27.

In Europe, the ease with which they swept aside a strong Toulon side surprised many. It is a clear sign of how far in front of the chasing pack they are.

There may be one team in Europe that could stop them, however. Fresh from humbling Exeter and sitting pretty at the top of the Top 14, Clermont could provide real competition. With a team packed with star names from 1-15, Clermont seem keen to make up for their 2015 Final loss, having been eliminated in the group stages last season. If any team in Europe is going to stop Sarries, it looks like it will be Clermont.

Are Saracens the best in the world?

While Saracens can claim to be the best team in Europe, it’s hard to judge on a global stage. The Hurricanes were victorious in this year’s Super Rugby championship, having reached the final last season and are looking imperious. Blessed with possibly the two best players in the world – Beauden Barrett and Dane Coles – the Wellington-based team would cause Saracens problems.

However, despite some whispers of a grand North versus South champions match being in the pipeline, it still seems a distant dream.

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