Continuity the key for Premiership champions Saracens, says Mark McCall
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes continuity will be key as his side begin the defence of their Aviva Premiership title against Sale on Saturday.
Sarries lost winger David Strettle to Clermont over the summer but have otherwise retained much of the squad that were crowned champions in May following a convincing victory over Bath in the final.
The challenge now for Saracens is to find the motivation to do it all again and they should take heed of the fact that none of the last five Premiership winners have managed back-to-back titles.
McCall, however, believes he has the answer in maintaining a core group of players, balanced with youth and experience, to deliver a sustained period of success.
"When we began this part of the club's history six and a half years ago, we were determined to keep a group of people together for a period of time - staff and players alike," McCall told the official club website.
"When you look at the clubs who have been successful, whatever the competition, it was always clubs who kept a core of people together - be it Munster and Leinster a few years ago or Wasps or Leicester over here.
"We've managed to establish that and we don't want to have a lot of chopping and changing."
Saracens welcome England quartet Jamie George, Alex Goode, George Kruis and Mako Vunipola back into their squad for the opener at Allianz Park while American prop Titi Lamositele also returns from international duty.
Much of the rugby world's attention will remain on the World Cup this weekend and the tournament will have a lasting impact on the Premiership fixture list, which has started later and is more congested as a result.
That will put added pressure on clubs, particularly those involved in European competition, but McCall believes Sarries have the resources to cope.
"I think, broadly speaking, the age profile of our squad is a good age profile," McCall said.
"We've got some good young players who have established themselves around the team who are 23 or 24 years old.
"Then we've got some younger ones coming behind that. At the top end we've got some really experienced players who set a magnificent example to the youngsters, so I think we have a good balance.
"This season is unique because of the delayed start. We're about to go into a period of a minimum of 25 consecutive weeks with a Premiership or Champions Cup game, so we'll need everybody.
"It's going to be a real squad effort and we believe we've got the squad to do that."
Sale finished seventh in the table last season and have held on to influential fly-half Danny Cipriani, although losing forward Michael Paterson to Northampton is a blow to the club's hopes of survival.
Elsewhere on Saturday, beaten finalists Bath play host to Exeter in what should be an early barometer of the sides' credentials to make the top four.
Exeter only missed out on points difference last season and have signed Leicester duo Geoff Parling and Julian Salvi while Italian centre Michele Campagnaro has also joined from Treviso.
"The Premiership is very competitive at the moment, so if you're a top-six side then you're not going to be far off being a top-four side," Exeter boss Rob Baxter told the official club website.
"That's obviously where we want to be this year."