Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Tyrone Howe: McCall’s Saracens show how to tame the Tigers

Solid: Mark McCall's Saracens have an impressive away record

Mark McCall’s Saracens might not have fully deserved their victory against Gloucester last Saturday, but it marked a remarkable run of form for his team.

Since taking over the reins in January his squad have delivered the Premiership title, an achievement which had its foundations in an incredible ability to win away from home.

This record has continued and the culture at the club is one in which everyone treats those away fixtures exactly the same as playing at Vicarage Road.

Mentally, that is something incredibly difficult to achieve, but this same mental aspect is the main area where Saracens currently have the edge over other teams.

Last Saturday was an example. Since January, Saracens had only lost just one of their 18 Premiership matches. Twice they have visited and sacked the fortress at Welford Road, providing a valuable example for Ulster on how this is achieved.

The bigger the challenge, the more the Sarries players seem to revel in proving their doubters wrong.

Gloucester’s stadium at Kingsholm is another such fortress and Bryan Redpath’s men had not lost a home fixture in more than two years. An awesome away team against a side with a terrific home record created a juicy subplot and something had to give. It was Gloucester who lost their composure.

Under Brendan Venter, a culture has been introduced and instilled in the club which everyone has bought into.

This seems to rest easily on McCall’s shoulders and he has guided the club superbly since Venter’s departure as full-time Director of Rugby.

If Ulster’s former coach could bottle this secret formula he could sell it for a fortune.

But actually it is not that big a secret — Saracens’ success is simply based on traditional, arguably old-fashioned, but hopefully not outdated, human values.

How refreshing is that?

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