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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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'At Wasps, I hated playing against Saracens for those reasons'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Alex Lozowski has admitted he is amused that Saracens are still as universally disliked by their rivals and critics as they were before he embarked on last season’s one-year loan stint with Montpellier in France. It was November 2019, shortly after the London club had been docked an initial 35 points for salary cap breaches, that the five times England cap told RugbyPass: “Ever since I have been at Saracens, we have been universally disliked… it’s not really new to us.”


Twenty-two months not much has changed with Lozowski now back at the club following his French loan and Saracens restored to the Premiership following their year on the Championship circuit after that initial 35-point penalty was upgraded to an automatic relegation in January 2020.  

Before a ball has been kicked, Saracens have been made title favourites by the bookies. That favouritism is nothing new for Mark McCall’s regular trophy winners, but neither is the accompanying cacophony of criticism, abuse and dislike that is said about the club.

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What happened when RugbyPass went behind the scenes at the Saracens women’s team
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What happened when RugbyPass went behind the scenes at the Saracens women’s team

“God, it’s all sort of in one ear and out the other, if I am honest, some of the things I have read,” said Lozowski when asked by RugbyPass what bits of mud-slinging commentary had most stuck in his mind. “I couldn’t tell you one thing that has been said that sort of sticks out but it’s probably just the relentlessness of it which is amusing.

However, while Lozowski these days doesn’t give the frequent negativity any credence, he admits that he himself was once a Saracens detractor, back in his Wasps days prior to his switch to north-west London in 2016. “In years gone by they were never a nice team to play against,” he said, explaining his own pre-joining view of Saracens.

“Very competitive, difficult to beat. When I was at Wasps I hated playing against Saracens for those reasons and I never looked forward to playing against them. That will be one reason why (there is constant negativity) and then obviously the obvious reasons now which have been well documented and spoken about at length and for some reason continue to be spoken about now. I guess that is probably why we are not the most popular team but it honestly does not bother one player in that group one iota. Whether they are liked or disliked, it’s a very tight-knit group, we all get on really well and that is all that matters to us.”


Loan moves in England usually involve fringe players who can’t get sufficient games at their parent club. What happened at Saracens last term, though, was unprecedented, with star names such as Lozowski temporarily allowed to expand their horizons rather than play a season in the Championship.

The Premiership was the preferred choice of the likes of Ben Earl and Max Malins, but Lozowski was tempted to go further afield and while he had his issues with lack of form and concussions in France, he insisted the experience didn’t do him any harm and was to be recommended.

“It was something I never would have done or thought about doing had the situation not arose the way it did,” he explained, speaking ahead of this Friday’s opening round Premiership visit by Saracens to Bristol. “When I had the opportunity to then do that I wanted to take it with both hands and coming out the other side of it, I do genuinely believe I am in a better place now to kick on with Saracens and kick on with my rugby here.

“Whether other players decide at some point to do that in their career… I have spoken with Zach Mercer. He has joined Montpellier from Bath in his early 20s to experience a different style of rugby, a different lifestyle, and it could mean when Zach comes back to play in England, if and when he does, he will be able to kick on again. From my experience, it’s certainly not going to do anyone any harm.


“The quality of opposition every single week in the Top 14 is incredible. Some phenomenal rugby players playing in every team over there. That is always a challenge to come up against those kinds of players. And then from my time spent with the Montpellier team, guys like Bismarck du Plessis, Cobus Reinach, Handre Pollard, these kinds of guys, to pick their brains on the way they see the game, the way they think the game is going and areas where they get the upper hand against the opposition, that is among some of the best things I got out of that year.”



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RUGBYPASS+ Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis