This week’s Opposition View comes courtesy of Steve from the Saracens Supporters Association (@SarriesSupport) who offers us his thoughts on the Gallagher Premiership champions, their coach and a trip to the Arms Park 18 years ago ahead of our double header over the next two weeks.
Last year as reigning European champions you finished second in the pool and ended up travelling to Leinster in the quarter-finals. How much is there a desire to avoid that this year and win the pool comfortably?
I think last year’s trip to the Aviva was a match too far for a tired Saracens team. They had played an awful lot of rugby that season with the Lions tour and not really had much of a break. With a couple of key injuries and facing a team playing in their own backyard we were always up against a tough challenge. I know this side won’t fear going anywhere however if you can make it a little easier for yourself why not!
It’s been an unbeaten season so far, is this the best of some pretty impressive Saracens sides in recent years?
I’ve been really impressed with the way that some of the squad have stepped up and continued this run of form. One thing the coaches always talk about is evolution and the players that we have recruited and those that have stepped up from the Academy have really shown a desire to raise standards. It’s a bit early to be sure but yes potentially this current Saracens side has the capacity to go all the way.
Mark McCall has ruled himself out of taking over the England job this time around but as England fans as well as Saracens fans, is that something you’d like to see him do at some point?
On a personal level I’m pleased Mark has ruled himself out of the England job, we know all too well what that can do to a coach having lost Andy Farrell and Paul Gustard to roles with the RFU. Being selfish I’d like the current setup to stay at Saracens for as long as possible, but would never stand in the way of somebody’s personal aspirations. I feel the bigger threat maybe Mark going to Ireland but now that danger seems to have passed for a few years at least.
Despite the perceived big spending at Sarries you’ve still got a strong base of English players. Is that something that’s important to you as fans?
The English heartbeat at Saracens is vital to the supporters and to the club. As a supporters association we are delighted to be sponsoring Joel and Jonathan Kpoku this year and feel that they really embody what the club now stands for – the development of young English talent. That said it has stretched resources somewhat during the international window!
It’s been 18 years since a Cardiff side last took on Saracens, how much do you know about the Blues team that will visit Allianz Park on Sunday?
I remember well a long Friday night drive to The Arms Park to watch us take on Cardiff in a European match in 2000. The result that night went against us but I’m personally really looking forward to us meeting up again at this double header.
We have worked very hard to build bridges with travelling support and have received fantastic welcomes in grounds around Europe and I look forward to that being the case again these next two weeks. We were all rooting for Cardiff in Bilbao earlier this year although I can’t promise the same level of support on Sunday!
And finally, what’s your score prediction for Sunday?
Always tough, the pitch is a great leveller and I know for a fact Cardiff will be happy to play from anywhere. I think we will see a fast game on a dry day with Saracens coming out victors by 8 to 10 points.
Cheers to Steve and us Cardiff Blues fans are looking forward to meeting up again after all this time at Allianz Park on Sunday!