TOP BAR - Fixtures

Mark McCall expecting stern London Double Header test for Saracens

His side may have recorded a big win against Worcester Warriors at last year’s London Double Header, but Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes they’ll be facing a different animal this time around.

Saracens are once again the team to beat this year after wrapping up a historic Aviva Premiership Rugby and Champions Cup double in 2015/16.

But each and every team in Aviva Premiership Rugby has added ammunition over the summer and nowhere is that more evident than at Worcester.

England-qualified powerhouse Ben Te’o is a huge coup for the club and he is joined in the centres by Jackson Willison, a Maori All Blacks international.

Meanwhile Saracens have tied down a number of the stars who have helped them to greatness, while South Africa legend Schalk Burger’s signature is an undoubted head-turner.

Despite their huge success, McCall knows how crucial the start of the season is with his entire squad available – and Worcester pose the perfect opening-day test.

“Our players enjoy playing at Twickenham, this year we’re against Worcester again and they’re recruited really well in the summer,” he said.

“They’ve got a really good core of experience now so it’s going to be a really tough fixture to start the season with.

“With Carl (Hogg) taking over from Dean Ryan they’ve got a new figure at the top, they’ve brought in some internationals and they’ve got Ben Te’o in the centres, (Francois) Hougaard at scrum-half. But also they have a deep, senior look to their squad now.

“These first six games are generally quite important, a tough run of games but we do have our full squad available to us and there are other times during the year that’s not the case and we have to do without a fair chunk of our players for a period of time. While we’ve got our full squad we have to capitalise on that.”

Whether as front-runners or part of the chasing pack, Saracens have found a way to ensure they’ve been in the mix for the play-offs in the last seven years.

And as long as they’re in with a chance come the business end of the season, McCall will always back his side.

“We’ve been really consistent over the last three years in particular,” he added. “Three years ago we got into both finals and we lost them both, we lost the last one against Northampton in the last second.

“We did well to respond to that two years ago and last year was great for the club. But the aim is to always give ourselves a chance at the end of the season, and to do that we need to be reminded of things that are important to us.”

Start the Aviva Premiership Rugby Season in style with two games from £25 at Twickenham. Harlequins v Bristol Rugby and Saracens v Worcester Warriors in the London Double Header, 3 September. Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk

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