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Saracens braced for the Exeter-like threat Ealing possess in one aspect of their game

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Saracens boss Mark McCall has saluted how opposite number Ben Ward has turned minnows Ealing into a Championship level powerhouse capable of playing in the Gallagher Premiership. Nineteen months on from their automatic relegation from the top flight for repeated breaches of the salary cap, McCall’s star-studded Saracens are just 160 minutes away from reclaiming their place amongst the elite in England – provided they can get the better of the Trailfinders in the two-legged final that begins this Sunday at Vallis Way. 

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Saracens will field a starting XV containing a dozen internationals, including all five of their Lions picks in the hope of securing an advantageous position before the June 20 second leg at the StoneX. Ealing twice defeated McCall’s side in the pre-season Trailfinders Cup but they lost 48-20 when the sides met in the league in April. Now they are clashing again seven weeks later with the tier-two title on the line. 

“Ben Ward had done an unbelievable job there over a long period of time,” reckoned Saracens boss McCall when asked by RugbyPass at his media briefing for his assessment of the threat posed by Ealing. “This is the best they have been and they are ready to go to the Premiership now, I know that. 

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“They are the sort of team you don’t want to let in your 22, a little bit like Exeter in lots of ways. When they get inside your 22 they can do some real damage. They have got some really experienced half-backs who play a very strong territorial game and a very good set-piece as well.

“They have got good players all the way through their team, they have got players who have played in the Premiership all the way through their team, experienced players, and we are in for a stern challenge over the next two weekends.”

Life in the Championship hasn’t been plain sailing for Saracens, their eight wins in the regular season bookended by an away loss to Cornish Pirates in the opening round and a cancelled game versus Hartpury College in the final round. Looking back, McCall doesn’t view that 25-17 ambush in Cornwall as a useful wake-up call. “It didn’t feel that way at the time I have got to say,” he explained, adding that a season-best performance is now needed by his team.

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“But once we got the squad back together again the more we have played the better we have been and there is a lot of confidence in the team at the moment, but the team we are playing against over the next two weeks is better than the teams we have faced over the last four or five.”

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Saracens braced for the Exeter-like threat Ealing possess in one aspect of their game

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