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Mark McCall expects his Saracens team to face tough challenges

Saracens' defence of the Aviva Premiership is off to a flying start - but director of rugby Mark McCall admits his side must improve for the challenges that lie ahead.

Winless London Irish, who are undergoing a rebuilding job under new head coach Tom Coventry, took a lead into half-time in Saturday's Aviva Premiership thanks to an Asaeli Tikoirotuma try.

Jackson Wray and Alex Goode crossed after the break and Saracens kept the Exiles at arm's length for the last 20 minutes, winning 24-14.

But with a Champions Cup clash against Toulouse following hot on the heels of a trip to Aviva Premiership rivals Northampton, McCall is seeking better performances.

He said: "Of course we are pleased to be undefeated after three matches, but we do judge ourselves on our performance levels.

"There were aspects which were okay, but there were aspects we could improve on.

"We seemed to have the ball a lot of the time, I don't know what the stats will say but we seemed to be in their third and down there a lot without being good enough with it.

"Obviously we missed a few kicks, we missed a few chances along the way and the game was probably closer than it needed to be.

"There was a lot of frustration in the dressing room at half-time.

"We have a huge match in Europe coming up against Toulouse and we have a pretty big game next week against Saints, our squad is pretty healthy at the moment and we need to try and rotate in a sensible fashion."

The two sides will meet again in March when London Irish host the Aviva Premiership's first overseas fixture in New York.

And Coventry believes his Exiles now have a platform from which to build after proving themselves trouble for the defending champions.

"We finally got our teeth in to something and had something to be proud of. That's what I said to the boys at half-time, now we are finally playing rugby," said Coventry.

"It's been about finding our feet and finding the standard needed to play at this level against the champions, it is pleasing.

"There were a lot of things last week where we didn't even know where to start so we've made a good contribution to where we need to go from here.

"As a team that's near the bottom or at the bottom we need to find moments like this where we can take those opportunities to grow our game. Today was a good starting point for that."


From Belfast Telegraph