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'You said the word sensational, I think he has got a big way to go'

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

One of the left-field success stories of the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership season was the breakthrough at Saracens of the unheralded Theo McFarland and yet the praises sung by his coach Mark McCall are tempered by the knowledge that the mid-20s rookie still had a long way to go in the game.

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It was summer 2021 when the ex-basketballing Samoan pitched up in London via the MLR and while progress was initially limited to cameos from the bench, January injury to Jackson Wray opened the door to opportunity in a starting shirt and he ran with it all the way to a Gallagher Premiership rugby final appearance versus Leicester in June.

It was quite the achievement for the 6ft 6ins, 115kg 26-year-old who doubles as a lock and back row, clocking up 18 starts in 25 appearances and bagging the try of the season award with a high flying, dextrous finish versus Northampton at the StoneX.

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This endeavour was rewarded in August with McFarland putting pen to paper on what Saracens described as a “long-term deal” without giving away the length of their new arrangement. Payback begins on Saturday with McFarland chosen in the team that is heading to The Stoop for the derby versus Harlequins with the No6 jersey on his back.

Just don’t overhype his ability when asking the director of rugby McCall a question about the new sensation. “You said the word sensational, I think he has got a big way to go, to be honest,” replied the boss when the impact of McFarland at Saracens was broached.

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“He is very new to professional rugby, very new to this level of rugby. He had a good season. Last season he made some real strides forward, he did some excellent things in matches but he knows there are parts of his game that he can really improve and the great thing about Theo is he is very motivated to get better. He is very committed to that as well and knows he is not the finished article by any means.

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“He’s 26, 27 now but he has barely been involved in professional rugby so he is a very young rugby age, to be honest, so we are very confident that he will get better.

“He is quiet but you have got to watch the quiet ones. He is a great character and well-liked by the squad. A very gentle soul I would say but he is brilliant to have around and the important thing is he actually cares about what he does.”

As to where the credit lies for the initial Saracens recruitment of McFarland from his American obscurity, McCall added: “Nick Kennedy deserves all the praise for that. He unearths a lot of players like him down the years for us and it’s great we have got him.”

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