Wednesday 13 November 2019

Innovative Saracens hope to move forward by standing still

Saracens player Alex Goode kicks a penalty as Kelly Brown looks on during an Aviva Premiership match between Gloucester Rugby and Saracens
Saracens player Alex Goode kicks a penalty as Kelly Brown looks on during an Aviva Premiership match between Gloucester Rugby and Saracens

Will Greenwood

Never backward in coming forward, Saracens love an innovation. They are an organisation that look for an edge, and very often find it.

It may not always win fans, but more often than not it is effective and it comes about when they are under the most pressure.

Facing Munster in the Champions Cup today, Saracens are walking on a knife-edge. They need something special.

This is a side who know exactly how to play the percentages because they have spent months and weeks working them all out.

As a result, they always prefer to be proactive, even if it means standing still as a side. Quite literally.

Take their use of decoy runners. Aware that officials are keeping a close eye on decoy runners' movements, Saracens have decided to cut out half of the problem; or, more precisely, the running part.

By and large we have been alerted to "runners" making contact with defenders, or clever defenders getting in the way of decoy runners and making the most of the contact so that the referees have to pull back play.

Both these events rely on the decoy moving, and, based on their game against London Irish two weeks ago, Saracens have decided that moving is surplus to requirements.


From a scrum, we saw static rugby reach new heights. Billy Vunipola drove up into the heart of the Irish defence. Rather than following him, the big units headed quickly to the midfield and stood there like three giant, immovable columns.

As the ball was recycled, Mako Vunipola was at first receiver. The defenders were faced by this front line of giants; behind which were standing the backs ready to pounce. They were not completely hidden, rather they were cunningly obscured.

The immobile players are not necessarily interfering with play nor are they out of the way. They are smack bang in a grey area that Saracens are using cleverly.

By putting the immobile objects out in the midfield, not only can they not press as one, they cannot even really press. If the defender runs into the immovable stationary player the referee will probably laugh at you for trying to buy the penalty.

Saracens have Clermont waiting for them in round six. They are doing everything they can to find a new edge,anything to give them an extra split second, an extra yard to make sure they take their chance.

Innovators need to push the boundaries and Saracens, both on and off the field, are leaders in this area. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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