Next Up | Sarries open 2022 in Northampton
The start of 2022 kicks-off with a bang for Mark McCall’s Saracen’s Men’s side as Northampton Saints and Gloucester Rugby provide two quickfire challenges.
After the Boxing Day clash with Worcester Warriors, there will be no eating of mince pies on the sofa for the Sarries squad with Saints and Gloucester to come.
The men in black travel to cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday, January 2 for a humdinger of a clash to begin the New Year.
Chris Boyd’s Saints are traditionally formidable opponents on home turf. They hammered Bath Rugby 40-19 on December 4 although they have suffered some disappointing Franklin’s Gardens losses this term. They were beaten 55-26 by their biggest rivals Leicester Tigers on October 30.
And in the first round of the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup, director of rugby Boyd saw his team suffer at the hands of a Racing 92 masterclass from Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale.
Scotland fly-half Russell pulled the strings as Racing dismantled Northampton.
Despite that result, Saracens director of rugby McCall will know just how dangerous Saints can be.
Boyd believes his team can and must learn from the Racing defeat.
“We were hoping we could put enough pressure on them at the end to get another couple of tries and a bonus point, but I thought at times their defence was outstanding and we were not patient enough or accurate enough,” he said.
“There are lots of good lessons out there and if you aspire to improve, there are often some telling lessons. But the boys were pretty down afterwards and disappointed with the outcome and the performance. We’ve got to look at whether it was technical or tactical, but at the end of the day it was well short of being good enough.”
Saracens last visited Northampton in the Gallagher Premiership on February 29, 2020. That day the men in black sealed a four-try bonus-point win, coming out on top 27-21.
Sarries tries came from Ben Earl, Rotimi Segun, Jack Singleton and Nick Tompkins.
Fly-half Manu Vunipola kicked two conversions and a penalty.
After visiting Saints, Saracens return to home comforts just six days later against Gloucester at Stone X on January 8. The Cherry and Whites will be dangerous opposition because their main man George Skivington looks like he has got his team starting to fire on all cylinders.
The 27-10 success over Bristol was especially impressive and underlined the strides they are making under head coach Skivington.
And in players like flying Wales and British & Irish Lions wing Louis Rees-Zammit, Gloucester have players capable of causing Saracens significant problems.
The day after the Gloucester game, Saracens Women’s side host Sale Sharks Women at Stone X with a kick-off at 2pm.
It means there will be a double header of fixtures at Stone X for Saracens supporters to enjoy at the start of 2022. “When I came in, everyone was talking about Gloucester’s
inconsistency, and we showed a bit of that last season,”
Skivington said. “I think we have just started to kick forward a bit in our game and build that consistency. You have to be consistent in this league.
“That is credit to the players. They solve problems together, they stay very tight, and there is no-one screaming and shouting at each other when things go wrong.
“Bristol are dangerous and there were plenty of times in that game when they put a lot of pressure on us. It was a derby game and we came out on the right side of it.”