Ollie Phillips: Saracens' Wolf Pack culture the root of club's success and driving force behind latest European Champions Cup bid

Ollie Phillips
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Racing 92 v Saracens - European Rugby Champions Cup Final
Saracens beat Racing 92 to lift the 2016 European Champions Cup (Source: Getty)

Only the very best sides build the levels of consistency needed to claim back-to-back European Champions Cup titles and Saracens have the opportunity to seize their place in history against Clermont Auvergne on Saturday.

Victory over the Top14 outfit would allow Sarries to rub shoulders with the great Leicester Tigers team, under the stewardship of the likes of Martin Johnson and Martin Corry, who won successive Heineken Cups at the start of the century. Leinster and Toulon, who won Europe's top prize three times in a row between 2013 and 2015, are the only other clubs to have achieved the feat.

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For years Saracens were a side who underachieved and failed to hit the heights they should have given the vast sums of money that chairman Nigel Wray was throwing at the club.

But initially under Brendan Venter and now Mark McCall they have turned into a formidable unit and set the benchmark in terms of the level of intensity, accuracy and quality across the board, on and off the field.

We have come to expect that Sarries have a ferocious defensive line, quality all over the park and are united as a side. None of those things happen by accident, especially the latter.

Where Saracens have stolen a march is off the field. The Wolf Pack culture – hunt together, go as one, stay connected and become powerful – embodies the club.

When they go away to somewhere like the Coachella music festival in California, the club takes every single member of its workforce at huge expense, but they are all the more cohesive as a result. Subsequently, on the field they are brothers in arms and fight to the very end of every single game.

Sarries try and alleviate the everyday stresses and strains that may keep their players awake at night. They look to ensure that every facet of a player’s life is running efficiently. All they want that player to have to focus upon is turning up and being the best exponent of their skills that they can be.

It could be nutrition, making sure players have travel in their lives, a creche for their children or financial advice on mortgages, but Saracens think of everything and whether it’s through sponsors or whatever will try and improve players’ lives. They are masters at it.

Ultimately what they are doing is buying loyalty. If a club helps a player then that individual is going to desperately want to repay that debt and do things which may be above and beyond to further the collective cause.

Sarries recognise and manage this process incredibly well. In return, they expect a player to turn up and be the best they can be. If they don’t deliver on that then they don’t fit the culture but, interestingly and perhaps tellingly, not many leave not doing so.

Ollie Phillips is a former England Sevens captain and now a director at PwC, focusing on organisational, cultural and technological change.@OlliePhillips11

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