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'He's quality, a gem, everything that Saracens want as a player'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Ex-Saracens second row Jim Hamilton has sung the praises of new club recruit Theo McFarland, who capped the 23rd appearance of his first season in London with a two-try second-half blast last Saturday against Northampton. It was only last January when the 26-year-old Samoa-capped blindside started the first top-flight match of his career – ironically against the Saints – and his efforts in that away game had Sarries boss Mark McCall purring. 


The 6ft 6ins, 115kg McFarland initially made his mark playing basketball before switching to rugby and he was picked up by Saracens last summer on a long-term deal following a spell with the MLR Dallas Jackals. 

“Physically he is very blessed and our S&C team are doing some great work with him to get him as good as he can be for rugby,” said McCall four months ago. “In terms of just a natural skillset, he has got that as well. You combine his natural athleticism and the physical specimen that he is with his ability with the ball – and also he is a very fast learner. 

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The Breakdown | Episode 14 | Sky Sport NZ
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The Breakdown | Episode 14 | Sky Sport NZ

He is somebody with a very young rugby age. He played basketball for a long time and although he is 26 at the moment, he feels much younger than that because of how long he has been playing the game for but his progress has been really quick since he came to the club and the coaches have done a really good job with him.”   

McFarland has since gone on to become a first-choice selection at Saracens, moving at times between No6 and lock when starting on eight more occasions in the Premiership, four times in the European Challenge Cup and enjoying another hit-out in the Premiership Cup. 

This growing influence of McFarland with Saracens now looking to complete their first season back in the Premiership with a title victory left Hamilton delighted with what he saw, explaining that the club’s ability to snap up unheralded players and turn them into stars is again evident in the rapid progress of the Samoan forward.


Discussing McFarland on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod, ex-Saracens forward Hamilton said: “He played in the MLR for a little bit and he was put to Nick Kennedy by whoever. Someone said, ‘Watch this lad, he is a decent player’. 

“As we know, one of Saracens’ points of difference has always been identifying players. I chat with Kelly Brown quite a lot and a few months ago when I saw this lad, he was telling me this lad’s hand-eye coordination is on a scale like they have never seen in terms of what he can do.

“You saw that in terms of when the ball bounced up how quickly he took it and scored that first try of his (against Northampton). Rugby was a game for all shapes and sizes before. Yes, that still stands but rugby now is a game of athletes. You have to be unbelievably athletic and the rest will kind of follow.

“You can teach lineouts, you can teach scrums to a degree but the big thing and the No1 thing is power, speed, hand-eye and all these things that he has got. I look at him and I just want to enjoy watching him. He is quality. He is a gem, he is everything that Saracens want as a player, In the first half he was quiet, he is still learning but as you saw when the game comes to him he just opens up.”


Show co-host Andy Goode later included McFarland’s performance in the good section of his Good, Bad and Ugly review of last weekend’s rugby. “Theo McFarland is definitely getting a mention in the good this week,” he enthused. 

“A ridiculously good performance from him and he capped it all off with his wonderful finish in the corner with the acrobatics. I think he knew he always going to get there and he just did that for the crowd and the one-handed dive over. A hell of a finish, made it look good but he tweaked his hammy.”


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