Saracens boss ‘surprised’ by performances of returning England stars

Colin Newboult
Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly after Saracens' Premiership victory over Leicester Tigers in 2023.

Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly after Saracens' Premiership victory over Leicester Tigers in 2023.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was delighted with the efforts of his England players during their victory over Leicester Tigers.

Just a week after the Rugby World Cup had finished, their key players were back in action in their league encounter against the 2022 champions on Saturday.

The likes of Maro Itoje, Ben Earl and Owen Farrell were all involved, despite playing big roles in England’s positive World Cup campaign, which saw them finish in third place.

No rest required

They did not feel the need to have an extra week’s rest and instead threw themselves into Sarries’ match with the Tigers, which they won 32-17.

“I’m very pleased. It wasn’t perfect – far from it, but it was a bit of a gamble with seven English internationals coming back who had not been at the club for the last four months,” McCall said.

“I’m just surprised that those international players were as enthusiastic to come and play for their club as they were.

“They haven’t been here, they’ve been training with a different team, a different system, but what we’ve found down the years is that these players are very good at coming back in and getting on board very quickly, and you saw that today with the way they all played.

“I’m really proud of those England players.

“They all had an option [for a week off], we left it to them to see when their break was going to happen and they all said they wanted to come in and play this game which says something.”

Those England players had not featured for Saracens since May’s Premiership final but they showed no signs of rust as they earned a comfortable victory.

After a difficult start to the season, it was Sarries’ second consecutive win as they moved up to seventh in the table.

Leicester reaction

The Londoners also condemned Leicester to a third defeat of the season in what has been a disappointing start for new boss Dan McKellar.

“I thought we showed a whole lot of fight, but we didn’t execute,” McKellar said.

“My approach was always to give the boys a week off after the World Cup, to connect with family.

“It’s a huge emotional and physical toll on their bodies to go through three or four months in camp.

“That was always my approach, and Mark [McCall] took a different approach. There’s no right or wrong.

“We knew it was going to be a big challenge coming here and playing against a fully loaded Saracens side but we can’t control what they do, we can only control what we do.

“They played well and we needed to do better. It’s encouraging but we didn’t come here to have a romantic loss, we came here to win, it’s as simple as that.

“We executed three from 11 in the attacking 22, they executed five from eight – that’s the ball game.”

READ MORE: England stars shine for Saracens against Leicester while Northampton and Harlequins also win