Brad Barritt has insisted that Saracens, the reigning Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup champions, will continue to be a major force despite their looming automatic relegation to the second tier of English rugby.
While the Londoners are currently on minus 63 points at the bottom of the Premiership after their points deductions and a massive fine for breaking the salary cap, in any other season their nine wins from 13 league outings would see them second in the table.
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Besides knocking over their Premiership rivals, the club are also in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals with the chance to register a fourth title during Barritt’s time at the club, although they face top-ranked Leinster in the last eight at a date to be rescheduled.
Right now, Barritt and co have started a three-week break from club-based training as the sport deals with the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
To ensure the squad remains fit, Phil Morrow, the club’s performance director, has mapped out training plans to ensure players are ready for whatever the disrupted season looks like when they reassemble in April.
“The players have all been spoken to by the strength and conditioning coaches about areas to keep on top of over the next few weeks, but due to the situation a lot of this is stuff they can do at home or by themselves on a pitch,” said Morrow to the club’s website.
“Things will be a little more condensed. In a pre-season, we normally have nine weeks to prepare for the start of the season, so we will get into team training a little quicker than a pre-season. But the gym work and fitness work will be similar at the start.”
Amid the mid-season suspension, Barritt is still discussing his playing future with Saracens who have been negotiating with their players about the shape of the squad for next season’s campaign in the Championship following relegation.
The ex-England midfielder accepts the current squad will never look the same as it must be broken up to satisfy the salary cap regulations the club was found guilty of breaking for three seasons.
Players such as Max Malins and Ben Earl have arranged one-year loan deals to stay in the top flight with Bristol before re-joining Sarries when they secure their predicted rapid return to the Premiership.
Barritt’s own future will be revealed shortly and Saracens fans will hope a deal can be struck to keep the talisman at Allianz Park after a career spanning five Premiership titles and three European Cups trophies.
“I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let the distractions off the field be an excuse for the team not attacking and preparing as we always have,” said the 33-year-old to RugbyPass.
How has #COVID19 affected training? ????
Does this period affect the way the injured players are treated? ?
How can Sarries fans keep fit at home? ?
We caught up with Performance Director Phil Morrow for answers to several training-related questions.#TogetherSaracens ???
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) March 18, 2020
“I’m immensely proud of the resilience and strength of character the squad has shown in a World Cup year when we have only picked our frontline starting team a handful of times, yet we would in any other year be close to the top of the Premiership.
“For everyone, there has been uncertainty and a mixture of emotions in various ways. After a while, we could only really worry about what brings us joy and that is rugby games. The players have been fantastic showing resilience and care for the club and Saracens means so much to them.
“There is (going to be) somewhat of a conclusion to an incredible period. The players you play with can never be guaranteed year-on-year and what will be uniquely different from my other twelve years at Saracens is there will be a lot more movement than in any of the previous years.
“A lot of the success we have achieved has been because we have kept a core of players together for a long period of time. In rugby, those one per cents, when people know and understand each other and what makes them tick, have been a huge contributing factor.
Alternative plan mootedhttps://t.co/208klRgVdm
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 18, 2020
“We have a possible two or three months together as a squad and our goal is to ensure what happens off the pitch doesn’t affect our play and how we conduct ourselves on it.
“Early on this season, it looked like we had to prioritise the Premiership ahead of the six pool games in Europe. A mixed squad was used in four of them so the fact we were able to sneak in the back door to the quarter-finals and have something tangible to play for is very exciting for the squad.
“I have been blown away by the support the Saracens community has shown us. Anyone can support a team when they are winning trophies. When things don’t go well and you are tested in terms or your commitment and character, some of the support this season has been as good if not better than I have ever experienced at Saracens. As captain, I’m eternally grateful and hugely proud of what they have stood for.”
The club’s academy has delivered yet more talent for Mark McCall, the director of rugby, to use while Saracens internationals have been on Test duty. Nick Tomkins recent breaking into the Wales team in the Six Nations is an example of how valued Saracens’ talent is.
Saracens are getting relegated, right?
It's getting a little complicated. https://t.co/MvXyyVWlWq
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 18, 2020
Barritt has been a key figure in helping to create the atmosphere to allow the youngsters to thrive. “The club is a breeding ground for talent and players are given the self-confidence and belief to go out there in the big arena and perform.
“That shows the harnessing of talent in the academy, and the coaching and feedback from senior players has been instrumental in getting them up to speed. The club can be very proud of how many future stars we have unearthed. They will be part of the next Saracens chapter.
“Nick has been fantastic in the course of the last couple of seasons and when you get this opportunity you have to take it with both hands. As a club, we have been hugely proud of his progress.
“We have also had Vincent Koch winning the World Cup with South Africa, Sean Maitland scoring tries for Scotland and, of course, the England contingent. All of those players come back to the club and bring a blend of experience and ideas to the group and push us forward.”
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