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Then it was off to the Nambiti Game Reserve for three days. “Downtime to get to know each other better is a strong thing at Saracens,” Barritt says. “We believe friendships off the field will ultimately make the team stronger, so two days in the bush together is as good as that gets.”

Despite the strong South African connections since Francois Pienaar joined the club after the 1995 World Cup, such distinctions don’t represent the squad’s worldly flavour.

“It’s natural with how the club went, in terms of how it’s made up, but we’re still very much an English club,” says Barritt, one of 12 Sarries players born in South Africa, Zimbabwe or Namibia. “We equally have players from Wales, Scotland, Fiji, Tonga ... so it’s very much a cosmopolitan club.” Add to that Samoa, Ireland, Argentina, New Zealand and the US and players such as Jackson Rae and Will Fraser who have graduated from the Saracens Academy.

The 2013-14 campaign starts with the London Double Header on September 7 at Twickenham where all four London Premiership clubs open their seasons back-to-back.

New blood: Barritt as a Lion

 Saracens play London Irish before Harlequins take on the London Wasps. “It’s a great way to kick the season off. To get all four London teams out on the pitch on the same day is brilliant for players and fans,” Barritt says. 

Last year’s season opener was a one-sided affair, with Sarries smashing Irish 40-3, but Barritt isn’t expecting the same. “They finished the season off strongly and have got a few new faces in the squad, so it’ll be a tough encounter,” he says. Quins edged out Wasps 42-40 in their 2012 clash.

As the Premiership gets going, Sarries’ Heineken Cup chase begins. They’ve drawn Connacht, Zebre and Toulouse, starting away at Connacht on Oct 11 before a return leg at Wembley on Oct 18. Of them, only Toulouse finished in the top two in their pool last year and they didn’t make the quarters.

Confidence is being kept quiet at Sarries, though. “It’s great to play teams who haven’t been as strong in the Cup, but they’re hard away fixtures. Connacht is tough to go to and I’m sure Zebre will be. Toulouse are a force in Europe, so we’re going to have to be exceptional to win that pool.” 

Better than ever squad depth will make the difference for Sarries, says Barritt: “We have a fantastic squad, being together for three years with the young guys who’ve come through. We’ll be fresh and ready to peak when we need to.”

Wasps plan to sting back: Can pain fix poor finish? 

Premiership Rugby sides need no added inspiration but London Wasps’ disastrous eight-loss run at the end of last season that led them to eighth gave them plenty to think about during an epic 14-week pre-season. 

Now Tom Varndell says his side will accept nothing less than a top-four finish as they prepare for the season opener against Harlequins, the second game of the London Double Header at Twickenham on Sep 7.“We’re definitely a different team this year,” the joint top try-scorer last year said.

“We’ve signed a lot of players and they have settled in well in the games we’ve had. To drop off the way we did last season was really disappointing and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve come in so early to work on our fitness and hopefully we won’t have that problem this year.”

The Wasps have “experienced some pain together”, now they’re ready to inflict some on their London rivals.

Aviva Premiership Rugby London Double Header, Twickenham, Saturday, September 7: 
London Irish v Saracens, 2pm; London Wasps v Harlequins, 4.30pm. 
From £21.80 via ticketmaster.co.uk   

TW1 1DZ  
premiershiprugby.com  
Station | Twickenham

 

Photos: Getty; Saracens.com


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Interview: England and Lions centre Brad Barritt says Saracens are ready to go one better this year
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