15 for 10: Saracens - an all-decade XV
No club domestically has been able to match Saracens’ domination of the Gallagher Premiership and Heineken European Champions Cup during the 2010’s, and that makes their 15 for 10 particularly competitive in a number of positions.
The gloss may have been taken off some of those titles thanks to recent revelations about their salary cap infractions, although that does nothing to detract from the talent that has been at the club in the context of this all-decade XV where, if anything, it has only made the competition for the XV more intense.
Check out the team below and let us know who you think we missed and who should have made the cut instead.
- Alex Goode
One of, if not the easiest selection in the XV, Goode has been a steadfast presence at full-back throughout the past decade and is currently closing in on 300 appearances for the north Londoners. His lack of regular involvement with England often leaves fans scratching their heads, although there is no denying the gargantuan impact he has had on the club game.
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- Chris Ashton
Liam Williams has had his moments recently, as did homegrown player Nathan Earle, although it’s Ashton’s five-year stint at the club that wins the day. He bagged over 40 tries for the club at a rate over one every two games and his eagerness for work and involvement made him perfectly suited to the way Saracens play their rugby.
- Marcelo Bosch
A bit more competition, here, with Duncan Taylor, Alex Lozowski and Nick Tompkins all having their own valid claims on the position. That said, Bosch was remarkably consistent, added a long-range kicking option and played with surprising physicality during his time at the club, and was particularly vital in the side’s European successes.
- Brad Barritt
An honourable mention for player-turned-coach Adam Powell, though this spot was always going to go to Barritt. The South African has embodied everything that the club is about over the past 10 years and no one has put their body on the line for the team more than the centre. Even after the England call-ups began to die away, Barritt has continued to be arguably the most impactful and influential centre in the Premiership.
- David Strettle
It’s tough to leave out Chris Wyles, who is one of the more underrated players of the past decade, although at their peaks, it’s hard to ignore Strettle. The former Harlequin struck up a deadly partnership with Ashton and the pair tormented Premiership and European defences on a weekly basis.
- Owen Farrell
A significant nod to Charlie Hodgson, who enjoyed a fine late-career swansong at Allianz Park, but there is little dispute that Farrell takes centre stage here. The England captain has been one of Saracens’ most impressive players over the past decade, arriving as a raw and talented youngster, before developing into one of the best all-round players in the rugby world.
- Richard Wigglesworth
Neil de Kock started the decade strongly and Ben Spencer has finished it in the driver’s seat, although it is Wigglesworth who has dominated the position for the majority of the past 10 years. The scrum-half arrived shortly before Hodgson and the pair once again struck up the partnership and chemistry they showed at Sale, before Wigglesworth went on to help Farrell develop into the considerable player that he has become.
- Mako Vunipola
Plucked from Bristol’s senior academy, Vunipola will arguably go down as one of the best signings in Premiership history. That compensation paid out to secure his signature looks inconsequential now, as Vunipola has turned into perhaps the most skilful and balanced loosehead prop in the global game, not to mention being a two-time British and Irish Lions tourist.
- Schalk Brits
Without doubt the toughest call in this XV, there is next to nothing between Brits and Jamie George, whilst an honourable mention is also due for the impact of John Smit earlier in the decade. We’ve opted – just – for Brits, who it could be argued was more impactful and influential in the domestic game, whereas George has gone on to become one of the top two or three hookers in the international arena.
- Juan Figallo
A lot of competition at tighthead, with Petrus du Plessis, Vincent Koch, Matt Stevens and James Johnston all having had their moments. No one player has locked down the position for the majority of the decade, although a fit Figallo has arguably surpassed all others in terms of set-piece impact. You could make a case for multiple players here, although we have opted for career resurrection of the Argentinean, who, prior to Saracens, looked as though his playing days may have been over.
- Maro Itoje
One of the second row spots simply had to go to Itoje. He may not have arrived until a third of the way through the decade, but his rise since has been meteoric. His influence as a player and a leader is clear to see at both club and international levels, and he has been integral to the success enjoyed by the club in the second half of the decade. He recently ranked at 3rd on our Top 30 Players of 2019.
- George Kruis
Mentions for Alistair Hargeaves, Steve Borthwick, Jim Hamilton and Mouritz Botha, as well as the final two seasons of Hugh Vyvyan’s career, though it’s Kruis who got our vote. Kruis has established himself alongside Itoje as Saracens’ and England’s most effective lock pairing and the duo complement each other wonderfully well. His contributions at the set-piece and in defence are significant.
- Kelly Brown
The fast-rising Nick Isiekwe will have his eye on this spot over the next decade, although for the 2010’s, the clear front-runner is Brown. The Scotland international moved down to the capital in 2010 and made over 150 appearances for the club, providing them with an uncompromising physical presence on the flank.
- Jacques Burger
The Namibian Burger beats out the South African one, Schalk, as well as Andy Saull, Will Fraser and up and coming talent Ben Earl. Burger was a cult hero at Saracens and like Barritt, had very little regard for his own personal safety if it meant putting his team in a better position to win. His physical tackling helped bed in the defensive DNA that remains central to the team to this day.
- Billy Vunipola
Jackson Wray really does deserve a significant mention and is arguably a victim of his own versatility across the back row, whilst Ernst Joubert was also a key figure in establishing the foundation for the club’s current success. That said, very few players in the rugby world can match the impact that Vunipola has on a weekly basis and, at his best, he is in the conversation as one of the best back rowers in the world.
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