SARACENS winger David Strettle believes the official opening of the club’s new £20m Allianz Park home tomorrow marks the dawning of a new era for one of English rugby’s biggest clubs.
After 15 years of sharing a ground with Watford at Vicarage Road, Sarries have relocated to their new development on the site of the old Barnet Copthall facility.
Fans have been swept up by the excitement with the visit of Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership a 10,000 sell-out.
And Strettle, who returns from RBS Six Nations duty with England to play, feels the landmark match signals the start of a bright future.
“Saracens are one of the biggest clubs in England and they need a ground to call their own, somewhere that the fans can call home,” Strettle told City A.M.
“For the club, on the whole, this can definitely take us forwards.
“The boys have been playing in front of crowds of 3,000, so Saturday may feel different, but the increased support can only help us.
“You can feel the difference when you go on the road and play at Northampton, Harlequins and Leicester, for example, to playing at Watford. They have enclosed grounds and it helps generate a great atmosphere.
“That is something we can now look forward to.”
As well as bringing top-class rugby to north London, Allianz Park provides supporters with the biggest bar in world rugby – 2,000 capacity – and the players with an artificial surface.
The all-weather pitch is the first of its kind in the top flight and Strettle expects it to help, not hinder, Sarries’ form.
“Sometimes you have to play on heavy pitches and it can be a leveller in games,” he added. “But we have a fast surface that should make for good rugby. We play a tactical game, but have talented players and it will suit us.”
Former England lock Hugh Vyvyan will be among the capacity crowd for the historic afternoon.
And the founder of the Saracens Tulip Club, which offers prime hospitality and a networking facility on matchdays, is eagerly anticipating the occasion.
“I will enjoy watching the first game with Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton and our new Tulip Club members,” he said. “The exclusive club offers the camaraderie of rugby while members and players rub shoulders in the finest hospitality.”
For more on the Tulip Club email hugh.vyvyan@