The Big Interview: Tom Woolstencroft on Saracens’ mentality and the Premiership Rugby Cup Final
A winning mentality has often been cited as the key to Saracens’ success – and Tom Woolstencroft believes it will come to the fore once again in the Premiership Rugby Cup final.
The 24-year-old hooker has been a central figure in the club’s journey to the silverware showpiece in the competition’s inaugural running, featuring in every game during their unbeaten campaign.
Woolstencroft joined the Men in Black ahead of the 2018/19 season from London Irish, before making his first competitive start in the 29-21 win over Leicester Tigers in Round One.
And despite only being at the club for a few months, the former Bath Rugby Academy prospect admits the aura at Saracens is different to anything he has ever experienced before.
“We all have the same mindset for every game, we pride ourselves on our mentality going into these games and other than a few personnel changes it’s going to be the same,” he said.
“It’s been an awesome experience to play in every round. We’ve had quite a young side out every game and it gives the young players, including myself, a massive opportunity.
“We can show what we’re about and lay a marker down for future appearances in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby, putting us in the mixer for that, but it’s been a great experience so far and we’ve all enjoyed it.
✨ We’ve seen wonder tries, slick team performances and BAGS of talent ✨
👊 It’s all lead to this 👊
Battle lines drawn ⚔️ nervous fans 😬 stage set 🎭
🔥 Here we go 🔥 pic.twitter.com/VLKMTiryYK
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) 12 March 2019
“It was one of the main differences I’ve experienced since coming here, just that mindset that we don’t accept anything other than winning.
“It sounds odd but everyone, the whole mindset of the club, is the same. Whether it’s the physio or any other backroom staff, we’re out there to be the best.
“That is something that I hadn’t quite experienced before and you can see it reflected in the way we play and that mentality just to go out and dominate teams totally.
“It’s hard to explain but there is just an aura around the club where everyone wants to be the best, everyone expects the best and that’s one of the main things I found when I first came here.”
The final hurdle for Saracens in their bid to be crowned Premiership Rugby Cup champions at Franklin’s Gardens comes in the form of opponents Northampton Saints.
Saints have been an attacking sensation in this year’s competition, plundering 184 points en route to the final with the help of Breakthrough Player Award winner James Grayson.
But Woolstencroft is confident Saracens can add more silverware to their trophy cabinet by disrupting Saints’ flow, having beaten them 36-17 in the league earlier this month.
“Every team is always chasing silverware and this competition is no different for us,” he said. “For the younger players it’s been everything we’ve been building up towards for the season.
💣🔥 Our 4️⃣ #PremRugbyCup semi-finalists came to play 💣🔥
We had audacious dummies 🤪 stiff-arm fends 🖐 ploughing trundles 🚜 thundering hits 💥
And…a whole lot of youthful exuberance overflowing onto the pitch 😎
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) 12 February 2019
“The expectation and our mentality is we’ve got to dominate and win. We won’t know what to expect personnel-wise but in terms of Northampton we’ll face a similar picture in the way they play.
“But nothing changes for us, it will be like any other match and we’ll prepare for it like any other team. Saints have really excelled in this competition, especially in the earlier rounds.
“They have been playing with a very high tempo, flowing game and the reason they’ve been able to do that is because teams have given them the opportunity to do that.
“Teams have allowed them to play that style of rugby, whereas at Saracens we like to think our defence will nullify that and we’ll take every opportunity we can to win the ball back.”
One benefit for Northampton is that they will have home advantage, but Woolstencroft expects Saracens to thrive from the hostile welcome they will receive at Franklin’s Gardens.
“When we arrive there it’s going to be a pretty amazing atmosphere, but once we’re actually on the pitch you don’t really take that into account,” added Woolstencroft.
“If anything it’s going to get us more fired up to hear the opposition crowd against you, I certainly enjoy that aspect and everyone knows that people like to come for us.
“We pride ourselves on our team and our ability to breakdown teams, that’s something we will thrive on in the final and we want to go out there and deliver.”