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Saracens forced to evolve in response to leaking of coaching talent - Sanderson

By Chris Jones
Saracens players celebrate Premiership win

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Paul Gustard’s arrival as Harlequins head of rugby is the latest example of Saracens impact on coaching around the rugby world and the English Premiership champions are actively spreading their title winning gospel.


The ethos that Brendan Venter helped create at Saracens has been carried on by Mark McCall, the current director of rugby, who has seen Andy Farrell, Gustard, Ian Vass, Rory Teague and Rob Cain leave to take up key roles at home and abroad, with former player Mouritz Botha now the forwards coach with Germany. Just like their first team squad, the English champions are concentrating on homegrown talent in their successful Academy where the next group of coaches are being groomed.

In May last year Mike Hynard replaced Don Barrell as Saracens Academy Manager with Barrell joining the Rugby Football Union as Head of Regional Academies. Currently part of the Saracens Academy are Kelly Brown, the former Scotland captain who has coached breakdowns for Scotland and also helped Canada and the Royal Navy and Adam Powell, the former Saracens and Newcastle centre.

The Saracens coaching production line has delivered;

  • Brendan Venter, former technical director London Irish, ex-defence consultant South Africa and Italy.
  • Andy Farrell, British and Irish Lions coach, defence coach of Ireland.
  • Paul Gustard, former England defence coach and newly appointed Harlequins head of rugby.
  • Ian Vass, former England U20 Grand Slam winning coach now with Montpellier.
  • Rory Teague, former skills coach with England now head coach at Bordeaux Begles
  • Rob Cain  first full-time USA women’s head coach after his role with Saracens title winning women’s team
  • Mouritz Botha, forwards coach with Germany

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For Saracens, there must be a real danger that by allowing key coaches to join rival organisations, their position at the top of the game could be seriously undermined. Owner Nigel Wray dismisses this notion insisting that like his players, the coaches are encouraged to make the very best of their talents

Alex Sanderson, the Saracens forwards and defence coach, whose name has been linked to the England defence role that Gustard left this summer, agrees with Wray and rather than fearing the club’s secrets will be lost, he believes it only pushes the English champions to keep evolving and getting even better.

Sanderson is relishing going up against Gustard when the clubs meet at the Stoop on October 6 in a game that will be streamed live to the USA by NBC. He said: ”It is going to be even more interesting to have Guzzy there because there is no love lost between Sarries and Quins. Maybe they needed an environmental or cultural shift because they certainly have the players, tradition and pedigree to be a really good team. They are not far off it and to be honest, I am going to be really pleased to see more of him because I didn’t when he was with England as Eddie kept him very busy.


“There are similarities in terms of what teams do in defence and by having him, Quins will know our principles and policies but there is so much more to defence than just the system. It is always evolving as it did starting with Brendan (Venter) and then Guzzy and there are constant changes every season, especially when people leave the club. While the ethos continues you are always looking to move things forward regardless who is in charge.

“ We want to win all of the competitions and the European Champions Cup is massive. We let ourselves down in the Cup last season and if anything to home defeat in the pool stage against Clermont was the turning point for us. When we looked at what needed to be addressed it was a case of recognising the slide had started weeks earlier and while we didn’t have a big stand up meeting we had a lot of difficult small conversations and got everyone back onto the same page.

“To win the Premiership title again at Twickenham was sweet for the reasons I have mentioned, having turned a corner and found a way to get back on top again. I don’t look too far ahead. It is about getting through the first three games of the new season and see where we are and as always, it is about enjoying the journey – simple as that.”

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