Press Notes | Mark McCall EPCR R2
Director of Rugby Mark McCall is expecting a ferocious battle against Connacht this weekend.
Despite a heavy defeat last weekend, the Irish side are one of the best defensive operators in the URC and McCall is expecting nothing less come kick-off on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve been watching Connacht for a long time. I wouldn’t get sucked into thinking the last few weeks are a reflection of them as a side. They have an attacking game that asks lots of questions of you and defensively, they are one of the best in the URC, especially around the breakdown. They are a team we respect and admire a lot. We know we’re going to need to up our game this weekend.”
Saracens suffered a defeat last weekend against the Bulls, but McCall refused to use travel as an excuse for the loss.
“We’re not using travel as any excuse for how we played last Saturday. We’ve just been under par for the last two performances. We’ve had good conversations this week and I’m confident we’ll get a good response on Saturday. We’ve been a little bit low energy in the first half of games and not quite ourselves. Hopefully we’ll see a different type of performance on Saturday.”
Saracens currently have a pretty hefty absentee list, but McCall was confident in the ability of those in his squad, highlighting that Nick Isiekwe should soon return to action.
“It’s a very long line of injuries. It hasn’t been on this scale for a long time and we’re playing people more than we probably would have wanted to, but there are some few names that will be back soon like Nick Isiekwe. We’ve still got good players and personnel.”
Theo Dan has been a standout performer for Sarries this season and showed his promise again last weekend. McCall feels that whilst the young hooker’s ability around the park has always been a strength, it’s his work at scrum and lineout that is really coming to fruition.
“Theo has been good off the bench for us for a long time. He’s a very explosive runner and career but his bread and butter has also improved. His lineout throwing has gone to another level and his scrummaging is becoming very very good. For him to be mixing with the players he was at that high level, it’s obvious you’re going to improve. It’s his defensive game and set-piece which are improving and being with that international party will have certainly helped.”
It feels like a crucial game in the season on Saturday afternoon. McCall explained that his squad won’t be making any excuses for recent performances, believing that there will be a significant reaction from his side this weekend.
“We’ve got a playing group who don’t want to make any excuses. I genuinely think we’re going to see a different team on Saturday. You can’t just hope that improvement is going to happen, you have to make it happen and prepare accordingly. There’s a feeling around the group that there will be a huge improvement this weekend.”