09 May 2023

Pain of last season’s Premiership final defeat driving Saracens – Mark McCall

09 May 2023

Mark McCall says Saracens’ defeat in the Gallagher Premiership final last season has proved a driving force behind their quest for an immediate Twickenham return.

Victory over play-off opponents Northampton on Saturday would land Saracens a ninth appearance in English rugby’s domestic showpiece on May 27.

Their title hopes last year were dashed by Freddie Burns’ dramatic late drop-goal that saw Leicester claim a 15-12 victory.

“I guess it wasn’t so much losing the final, it was how we lost it, which is the thing that is driving us, I think,” Saracens rugby director McCall said.

“It felt like we played within ourselves. It was how we lost, not because we lost.

“Anyone can lose a final – knockout games are hard to win – but when you don’t feel that you have given it a proper go, then you carry that all summer. I guess that has driven this season to a degree.

“We’ve enjoyed a couple of really good weeks’ preparation. The players are in good spirits.

“We don’t take these things (semi-finals) for granted and we are looking forward to it. To get a home semi-final is exactly what you want.

“They (Northampton) are a very good team, an unbelievably dangerous team, full of talented players in their squad. And this is their second semi-final in a row, so they have shown some really good consistency as well.”

Saracens go into the play-offs after topping the regular season table and finishing 16 points above Northampton.

Fly-half Owen Farrell, though, does not believe that Saracens require a trophy to validate their Premiership return three years after relegation following persistent salary cap breaches.

“I think we have performed consistently enough over the past two years since we’ve been back to be enough of a presence in the Premiership,” Farrell said.

“Do we want to win the Premiership? Yes, of course we do. We’ve got some big personalities maybe playing in their last games for the club and we want to make sure we do them proud.

“To come back and do it (win the title) within a year, we talked about it being special, and we didn’t do it.

We've been consistent enough over the past two years, without winning last year, to validate us being back in the Premiership

“We are on another year now and I have not thought about it in that way too much if I am honest. We’ve been consistent enough over the past two years, without winning last year, to validate us being back in the Premiership.

“We want to be at our best, getting the best out of of ourselves, and I am sure Northampton are the same. We want to make sure we are playing some of our best stuff and we want to enjoy it.

“It’s tough to lose any final. We felt like we didn’t put the best out of us out on that day (last year) and that is obviously a credit to Leicester and what they did as well.”

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