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Saracens explain 'glass half-full' reaction to loss at Leicester

By Liam Heagney
Saracens boss Mark McCall (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Mark McCall has claimed the future remains bright for Saracens even though the Gallagher Premiership champions have now lost as many games in just over half of the 2023/24 campaign as they did in their entire run to glory last season.

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Saturday’s 10-19 reverse at Leicester was the London club’s fifth loss in 11 outings, a record that contrasts sharply with last term’s five losses in 20 regular season games before the playoffs.

However, instead of being pessimistic about his team’s chances of retaining their title, he came away from Mattioli Woods Welford Road claiming there were reasons to cheer due to the fighting nature of their latest loss.

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Joe Simmonds on potential England selection

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Joe Simmonds on potential England selection

“I was proud and pleased with a lot of things and there are some obvious things we need to improve and get better at,” he explained after defeat left them in sixth place, eight points behind leaders Northampton with seven rounds of matches remaining in a tournament reduced from 11 to 10’ clubs.

“We have got some large injuries, particularly in our front row. Mako (Vunipola) banned, Eroni Mawi out and Tom West unavailable. Jamie George unavailable, Marco Riccioni unavailable, Alec Clarey.

Turnovers

8
Turnovers Won
5
17
Turnovers Lost
12

“We have got some personnel missing in the front row and at the minute our scrum is hurting us. There is no question about that but what I liked outside of that was just the way the team got on with it and found a way to fight and scrap and stay in it.

“A lot of things we did defensively I was really pleased with. We almost clicked in attack, not quite but there were some encouraging signs, so I’m going to look at this game through glass half-full point of view because there is a lot we can be optimistic about.”

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McCall has suggested in pre-match TNT Sports interview that his team was in a transition and post-game he elaborated on what he meant.

“I remember presenting to the board in 2015 and we had Steve Borthwick and Ernst Joubert and a gang of people who were leaving the club that year and we looked at this new generation who were going to come through and hopefully grab hold of the club and they did.

“That’s eight years ago and they have had a hell of a journey and we have had a hell of a journey during that period of time, but that journey is coming towards an end and there is a new adventure next year on the horizon.

“We have got some real good talent in the squad and thankfully secured most of them for the next three, four years and it’s going to be their team developing at the club. That is something that we are looking forward to.”

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That said, losing isn’t something McCall wants to ever get used to. “We don’t want to be losing matches and we want to be playing better than we are playing.

“We haven’t quite had the season that we want but it’s a weird season because there is a seven-week break coming up and teams who have got momentum now have got to find a way to keep momentum in the break.

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“There is going to be a sprint to the line and one or two teams are going to get momentum in that period and someone can go from seventh or eighth to first or second very quickly.

“That makes it incredibly exciting. If we can get a little more healthy, get more of our players back, we could be one of those teams.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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