Second row George Kruis was at the forefront of England’s Grand Slam success but, with domestic issues now back at top of the agenda, attention has refocused on building the Saracens dynasty.
Defending champions and Premiership leaders Sarries are primed for a showdown with top-four chasing London rivals Harlequins in front of an 80,000-strong crowd at Wembley Stadium tomorrow.
Seven days later, the Allianz Park side play Wasps at the Madejski Stadium for a place in the European Champions Cup final as they pursue a maiden continental crown.
With Saracens fully immersed in the business end of the campaign, Kruis believes this season could prove pivotal in sealing the north London club’s authority as the dominant force in English club rugby.
“To follow international success with domestic success would be epic,” Kruis, who along with fellow lock Maro Itoje yesterday extended his Saracens contract until the summer of 2019, told City A.M.
“When you come off the back of a successful campaign like the Six Nations, it gives you a lot of confidence.
“Last year, winning the Premiership was just an unbelievable feeling after losing it the year before [against Northampton] in the final stages.
“You spend the majority of time with your club and have some unbelievable friendships there. We’ve been together as a group for so long that these sorts of things matter so much to us. We’ve done our learning curve and I think we’ve now got the confidence and the squad to go and do it again.
“It’s another year down the line. The base of our team has been there for the last four or five years and we’ve gone through that learning. If you look at the successful teams which have a legacy, they’ve all been through this learning stage. For us we’ve had some hard days, but we’ve got the experience and players to do it.”
Having fallen at the final hurdle in both the Premiership and Heineken Cup finals in 2014, Saracens took huge inspiration from NBA outfit San Antonio Spurs last term.
The Spurs bounced back from defeat in 2013 to be crowned NBA champions 12 months later by beating Miami Heat – outscoring their rivals by the largest average points differential in finals history.
A mantra adopted by Sarries stemmed from a stonecutter hammering at a piece of rock, which cracks at the 101st attempt, although the previous 100 blows are deemed just as vital to its shattering.
“For us, it’ still about pounding that rock,” added Kruis. “It’s interesting, you look at what they [San Antonio Spurs] went through and the heartbreak that they suffered initially, now they are creating the legacy that we talk about.
“Creating a legacy is massive for us, we need it and we want it. We want to pull it off. Like any team, we want to reach our goals and we want to be the best we can as a club.
“We have got an environment which has England players in it, and produces players that make a difference. We want to play to the best of our abilities and hopefully win trophies.”
Sarries have already secured a Premiership play-off spot, while victory over Harlequins would boost their hopes of a home semi-final tie – Mark McCall’s side sit five points ahead of third-placed Wasps with three games of the regular season remaining.
Departing director of rugby Conor O’ Shea has described the clash as “do or die” for sixth-placed Quins, who are five points adrift of Leicester Tigers and a place in the top four.
Quins beat Saracens at Wembley in March 2012, although the Men in Black have an impressive historical record at the national stadium, losing just three of 12 matches.
“With a lot riding on it, the stakes have certainly been raised,” said Kruis.
“We’ve got a chance to secure a home semi-final this year so it’s a massive game for us. We all know it’s a massive occasion.
“We’ve played a lot of matches in the past at Wembley, big games, so it’s almost like a home from home.
“We’re part of a pretty special bunch that gets to play there. It’s one of the best stadiums in the world, so it’s a real privilege, but that means nothing if we don’t turn up and perform.”