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The Interview | Tom Willis

06.11.23
In association with
City Index City Index
Willisinterview

IF ANYONE WONDERED WHAT NEW BACK ROW SIGNING TOM WILLIS IS GOING TO OFFER SARACENS THIS SEASON THEN HIS STUNNING STATS FROM THE WIN AT GLOUCESTER TOLD A PRETTY COMPELLING STORY.

In Round 3, Tom Willis made 13 carries - six of which were dominant - beat a round-high eight defenders, and scored two tries. In defence, he made 15 tackles and won as many turnovers as any other player (three).

That was the official verdict of a man who arrived this summer having spent much of the previous season helping Bordeaux-Begles reach the semi-finals of the Top 14. He also went on to win his first England cap in the World Cup warm-up defeat to Wales in Cardiff, joining elder brother Jack as a fully fledged senior international.

While Jack and Tom are very close, that sibling rivalry has prepared Tom for the battle he is expecting to have at his new club. He likes to play at No 8, but so too do Billy Vunipola and Ben Earl! If he fancies a run out at No 6, then Theo McFarland, Nick Isiekwe and Andy Christie might have a few words to say about that.

Every way he turns, the 24-year-old can see massive competition for a place in the back row at his new club. But he wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I prefer to play at No 8 because I enjoy carrying the ball and that side of the game. I know Billy is the established player in that position, and that Ben got a run of starts there for England and did incredibly well at the World Cup, but it’s that competition for places that I’m looking forward to,” said Willis.

“Back row is a massively competitive area in the team, but that is only good for each of us and will be good for the team when you are looking to fight on multiple fronts over the season. It means you have to fight every day and in every training session to earn your place in the team.

“The World Cup players will be back in and that will give everyone at the club a huge lift. Coming to Saracens has been completely different to anything else I’ve experienced in my career, but I’m loving it.

“When you are on the outside, as I was at Wasps, nobody really likes a team that keeps on being so successful. Everyone has an opinion on what it might be like at that club.

“But since I’ve come in all I can say is that everything has been first class. The way we have been brought together both on and off the pitch has been amazing. They take care of the players and their partners, and I’m enjoying living in St Albans with my girlfriend.”

While the at Gloucester gave a taste of what Willis has to offer, the even more important thing was it provided the ‘Men in Black’ with their first league win of the season. There was a tough start at Exeter Chiefs and then a disappointing home loss to Bath.

“The game against Exeter, which was my league debut for the club, was all a bit of a blur and massively disappointing. It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted or expected,” added Tom.

“The game against Bath was an improvement and we’ve been building since then, which you saw with the win at Kingsholm."

The collapse of Wasps last season was a huge blow to both Tom and his brother. Jack joined Toulouse, where he will be staying this season, thus sacrificing his England career, while Tom has happy to return home to try to push his claims for further honours.

“I had to adapt my game massively when I went to play in France. It is a far more physical league, there are some strange refereeing decisions, and the fans are absolutely mad. You can’t afford to just run in straight lines because you get smashed by two or three people,” added Tom.

“It was a great experience for me and probably got me a place in the England squad, and my first cap. I had to play against Toulouse and Jack in one game, which was a very strange day.

“We’ve always been very close and I think we both found it hard to play against each other. In the end, we just got on with it and Jack left everything to Antoine Dupont and he won the game for Toulouse virtually on his own!

“When I saw Saracens had been drawn to face Bordeaux-Begles in the Investec Champions Cup I was buzzing. Now that’s a game I really want to play in.”

Nextup

Coming up next for Saracens

All the focus for Mark McCall’s squad is on reaching the play-offs and going on to successfully defend our title at Twickenham. The goal is an 11th Premiership final and seventh title. Retaining the silverware would be another huge achievement. There are still three more league games to go as the pressure mounts at the […]

22.04.24
In association with
City Index City Index
Lewyaz

A-Z | Alex Lewington

This week, it's Alex Lewington taking on the A-Z challenge. A - Action: If you could be a superhero, which would you be? Batman B - Boyhood: Who was your sporting idol growing up? David Beckham C - Childhood: What is your favourite childhood memory? Going to Old Trafford with my Dad D - Dish: […]

22.04.24
In association with
City Index City Index
Dalyarticle

The Interview | Elliot Daly

ENGLAND INTERNATIONAL ELLIOT DALY RECENTLY SIGNED A NEW TWO-YEAR CONTRACT WITH SARACENS UNTIL THE END OF THE 2025/26 SEASON. The 31-year-old joined Sarries from Wasps in 2019, making 64 appearances for the club since. He was part of the side that won the Premiership last season, scoring the crucial try in their win over Sale […]

22.04.24
In association with
City Index City Index

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