MY DEBUT | Kyran Bracken
We’re starting a new series called ’My Debut’, centred around what memories Saracens have of their first competitive game for the club or their country. We start with legendary scrum half Kyran Bracken!
Kyran was one of the super-star signings made by Saracens new owner Nigel Wray for the start of what was essentially the opening season of fully professional rugby. The England scrum half arrived from Bristol and was joined in making his competitive club debut with Michael Lynagh, Philippe Sella, Richard Wallace, Paul Wallace and Paddy Johns.
It was a momentous season for the game and particularly for Saracens. The new era under Wray’s stewardship had begun. If it wasn’t the greatest of starts – the club finished sixth in the Premiership and were knocked-out by Quins in the quarter-finals of the cup – just look where he took the club over the next 25 years!
Mark Evans was in charge and midway through the season Francois Pienaar arrived as a player-coach. Leicester were still one of the powerhouse sides in English rugby but got a shock on the opening day of the season at a new venue for rugby, Enfield Town football club.
So how was the big day for Kyran?
“It really was a bit of a bizarre time. The game was only a few months after we’d signed professional contracts, yet half the team were still amateurs. We prepared in much the same way as we always had done, but I guess we were playing at being professionals at the start.
“We didn’t know what we were supposed to be doing half the time. We’d do some extra work in the gym, play a bit of golf, drink a lot of coffee and train twice a week in the evenings with the full squad.
“There was now real understanding among us on how to get ready for peak performance. We were suddenly a group of blokes who were getting paid to play rugby having left our old jobs behind. It was hilarious at times, there were a group of pros training and playing with bankers, plumbers and electricians.
“Prior to the game against Leicester we went on tour to Scotland to prepare for the season. We played three games and finished up with a big win over Stirling County. We had Sella and Lynagh in our ranks at after that game they all had to join in the rituals.
“Two of the world’s greatest players had to drink pints of Guinness with three eggs in them, while I got handcuffed to John Green and wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet. I think John regretted that in the end because he got quite wet!
“It was just an amazing time in my career. We knew how to have a laugh and enjoy ourselves. But when it came to the rugby, it was deadly serious.
“That game against Leicester as tough, but a great way to start the season. They were an outstanding team who went on to reach the Heineken Cup final at the end of the season having won the Pilkington Cup and finished fourth in the league.
“I managed to score a try, although I should have passed to a completely unmarked player outside me and Michael Lynagh controlled the game and kicked 17 points. It was an experience playing at Enfield after Bramley Road and the ‘Fez Heads’ all joined in the fun.
“I guess it was a marketing exercise for Nigel Wray and the beginning of a wonderful new era for Saracens. I loved my time at the club and my son has just signed his first contract there. Once a Saracen, always a Saracen!”