Mark McCall ensures Saracens’ dominance is set to run and run

first_imgShare on Messenger Read more Champions Cup final: talking points from Saracens’ victory over Leinster … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share via Email Reuse this content Leinster Topics Champions Cup Leinster remain a fine side, while Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne are rebuilding nicely but no one is proving as ruthless on major occasions as Mark McCall’s squad for whom a third European crown in four seasons could be a prelude to something even greater. No English club has previously claimed three European Cups and it is hard to imagine that figure not rising.Consider, for example, Saracens’ age profile. Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, the Vunipolas and Jamie George have years of rugby left in them, with Elliot Daly also arriving from Wasps this summer. Of their senior statesmen, neither Alex Goode nor Brad Barritt show signs of easing up: Goode has been crowned the European player of the year, while Barritt is only the second man to captain three triumphant Champions’ Cup teams. Accelerating into the picture, too, are exciting youngsters like Max Malins and Joel Kpoku, of whom we will be hearing plenty in years to come.For all their rivals it adds up to a daunting equation: if Billy Vunipola and Will Skelton do not flatten you, Itoje and Mako will instead. Leinster, despite taking a 10-0 first-half lead, absorbed the physical pounding until the last quarter but, ultimately, could not cope with the power surge. Mentally, too, Saracens have reached the point where big occasions bring out the best in them, underlined by the 20 unanswered points that clinched their latest silverware. Read more features There was also a crucial realisation that simply working harder and stacking up titles like casino chips was not enough. “You think you’re going to be happy forever, there’s going to be nonstop joy. But after those 2016 finals we got together as a staff three days later and asked how everyone was feeling.“Everyone had experienced the same anticlimax: it turned out the joy hadn’t lasted that long. It was a wake up to us that we needed to enjoy it day to day. They were two really important lessons: being clear about how we were going to get better and making sure we created a good, stimulating, challenging, fun place to come to work. We’ve tried to do both since then. That’s kind of it.”That process has become largely player led, to the point where a few barked motivational words from Owen Farrell under the posts with Leinster leading 10-0 and Saracens down to 14 men altered the whole momentum of the contest. There was a collective sense Saracens still had another gear and, perversely, Itoje’s yellow card supplied the necessary spark. Share on WhatsApp Support The Guardian Share on Pinterest “For some reason it freed us up,” McCall said. “There was a sense of: ‘We’ve got nothing to lose, we’ve got to be right on it individually.’ We’re quite good with our backs against the wall.”It also goes without saying they have a particularly good director of rugby whom the scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, for one, reckons is as smart as anyone in the world. “Another coach who has won what he has won and done what he has done would probably be revered, wouldn’t he? He is smart in all different sorts of circles. Because he doesn’t like doing press he doesn’t get talked about in this world we live in but his record stacks up against probably anyone in the world.”For McCall, though, the real reward lies in the pleasure days like Saturday bring to others. This time next year European rugby’s finals will be held in the south of France rather than the north-east of England, with Marseille’s Vieux Port replacing Newcastle’s Quayside as party central. Theoretically much can change in 12 months but following Saturday’s 20-10 win on Tyneside, the question is less whether Saracens can succeed again beside the Mediterranean as how long their era of dominance will last.center_img Share on Twitter Billy Vunipola looks to put controversy behind him after Saracens triumph Facebook Rugby union “Genuinely the satisfaction you get is when you see how happy everybody is. What gives me the most pleasure is just seeing what it means not just to our playing group but all our staff, who are phenomenal at what they do.”It will certainly take a concerted effort from someone to deny them another domestic European and domestic double, with Monday’s Premiership Shield final the next goal. Unlike a couple of years ago, when they celebrated European success slightly too hard and lost a semi-final in Exeter the following week, they now have an extra week to recuperate before hosting Gloucester in the play-offs on 25 May.McCall also reckons his players are growing ever more formidable in terms of their self-belief. “I think this group of players can see things for what they are and not get spooked by the scoreboard. They’re brilliant at assessing what is happening and they don’t see ghosts. When you’ve got that clarity you’re able to find solutions to anything.”His relentless players are far from finished yet. Billy Vunipola lives up to Champions Cup final rallying cry for Saracens Read more Saracens Since you’re here… Share on Facebook Twitter Share on LinkedIn Pinterest The Breakdown: sign up and get our weekly rugby union email. A delighted McCall spoke as well in victory as he has ever done, explaining precisely why Saracens sit where they do and suggesting their consecutive final defeats in 2014 had been a critical catalyst. “We lost easily to Toulon and then we lost in painful circumstances against Northampton. You felt like the rugby gods were against you but when we got together again we understood we just weren’t good enough. We needed to improve individually and collectively and be clear with the players about how we were going to do that. Two years later we won both titles.” Mark McCall with the Champions Cup trophy his Saracens’ side claimed after beating Leinster. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Imageslast_img

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