Saracens skipper Alistair Hargreaves is calling on younger members of the squad to make their mark this season as they look to retain their Aviva Premiership Rugby crown.
The champions face Sale in their opening encounter next week, but could be without a number of first-team names still away on World Cup duty.
But Sarries showed their strength in depth last term with victories in the A League and LV= Cup competitions, and Hargreaves is confident Mark McCall has the personnel in place to deal with their early-season skirmishes.
And with that in mind, the 29-year-old South African is looking for Saracens’ fringe players to put up their hands in the opening weeks of the campaign for an extended run in the side.
“The beginning of the tournament is always going to be tough for us, lacking a couple of players, but we have a fantastic squad,” he said.
“It gives the guys who have been bubbling under the surface for a while the opportunity to step up and get some proper first-team rugby which will be great.
“We’ll have a conversation with all the guys coming back next week, and we’ll make a plan to get them ready mentally as well as physically.
“We take a massive amount of pride in our academy system and the players it produces and we have a philosophy of rotation in our squad.
“The lengthened break comes with its own challenges, managing the players and their workloads has been an important task for us, but we’ve got some great opportunities now.
“We believe that players can’t be at their best when playing six or seven games in a row, so we will have to make the most of the younger players and the whole squad.”
For the second season running, Saracens’ recruitment team have been fairly quiet over the summer with just three new arrivals at Allianz Park, but Hargreaves feels this will work in his side’s favour over the season.
And he insists the Wolfpack will not let their status as reigning champs affect the way they play this season, even if they are going into their games as marked men.
He added: “Consistency in sport is key. You need to have a strong familiarity with your team, an understanding of how they play the game.
“We really haven’t had a massive need to go out into the market, and we have a couple of strong signings in our squad and we’re happy with that.
“We won’t change our philosophy and the way we do things just because we’re the champions. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last eight or nine years and we hope that can put us towards the sharp end of the season.
“There’s always a target on our back. We finished top of the table in the two years before last season, and we lost two finals two seasons ago, so if you’re consistently playing good rugby, which a lot of players in the Premiership are these days, you’re going to be a target.”
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