TOP BAR - Fixtures

Storey eager to make impact at Saracens

After his contract negotiations were completed by his agent, Andrew Sceats of SportsMark Global Ltd, Storey jumped on the 23-hour flight to England and a mere few hours after touching down at Heathrow on Sunday, December 29, Storey was in the stands at Vicarage Road, in the depths of an English winter, watching his new team grind out an 11-6 victory over Leeds Tykes.

The following day, he began training in earnest, earning a place in the opening 22 for Saracen's Zurich Premiership game against Leicester last Saturday.

Unsuprisingly, for a man who has honed his front row skills in New Zealand in the NPC and Super 12, Storey put in a convincing debut performance in his first 40 minutes for his new club, after coming on at half-time during Saracens' 23-18 loss against Tigers at Welford Road.

And just two weeks into English life, things don't look like slowing down for Storey, whose main concern is currently finding a house so that his wife and daughter have somewhere to live when they finally follow him over from New Zealand at the end of the month.

However, despite the administrative and domestic pressures, this model professional is eager to make his mark and earn the respect of his peers, and his experience of playing in one of rugby's toughest leagues should help see him through his first contracted season with Saracens.

Storey's adjustment has been helped by the presence of a couple of familiar faces at Vicarage Road, most notably one of his oldest friends, hooker Joe Ross, who came up through the Northland provincial set-up at the same time as Storey.

He is also well-acquainted with French international great Christian Califano, whome he played alongside in the 2001-02 Super 12 season for the Auckland Blues. "The presence of those two has definitely made it easier for me to settle in," says Storey. "I'd spoken to Joe and so knew what I could expect with the level of play here."

Of course, the New Zealand connections at Saracens don't end there, with legendary All Black Wayne 'Buck' Shelford midway through his first season in charge of the Watford-based side.

"You think about what Wayne's achieved in his career as a player, but you can't stand in awe of it and he would be the first one to tell you that," says Storey. "He's focused on coaching and that's where he wants to achieve now."

When broaching the subject of what he expects to bring to Vicarage Road this season, Storey is keeping his cards close to his chest, eager to let his on-field performances do the talking.

"I've played some of the most competitive rugby in the southern hemisphere in the Super 12 and I wanted to come over here and play competitively," he says.

"This season will be a consolidating year for me. I just want to make my mark for Saracens."

When the question of his Irish passport and subsequent international qualification to play for Ireland is raised, Storey is happy to play down his chances of achieving international honours in the furture, saying: "I thought about contacting the Irish selectors through my agent just to let them know my passport situation but then I thought I'd rather concentrate on my job at Saracens and see what happens.

"Once I've settled in here and had a good year, who knows what will happen? I'm certainly under no illusions. I didn't think about coming here and immediately making 'this' team or 'that' team. I will concentrate on my job first and if I'm doing well week-in, week-out, it could pave the way for something later."

Focused and determined, it will be interesting to see what impact Storey makes at Saracens who are striving to inch their way up from their current spot at eighth in the Zurich Premiership table. If the man from Whangerai can play parallel to his convictions, Saracens could be looking forward to greater achievements to come.

By Roscoe Kurensky

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