Saracens head coach Joe Shaw has vowed to ensure that international call-ups don’t derail the Premiership runners-up’s attempts to go one better next season.
With many European internationals set to miss over 10 weeks of domestic action and players representing countries further afield likely to miss a similar number of weeks, strength in depth at club level can be the difference between being competitive all season and being left behind by rivals.
“Over the last decade when you look at the amount of players Saracens have got playing international rugby, through World Cups, through British and Irish Lions, you have to take it in your stride,” said Shaw.
“We will make sure we are well planned for those times [so that] we have a strong enough squad to compete with everybody in the Premiership.
“That’s the way the game is now, these kinds of curveballs get thrown your way and you’ve got plenty of time to adapt and to plan.”
Saracens were beaten by a last-minute Leicester drop-goal in last season’s Premiership final but impressed in their first campaign in the top flight following their enforced relegation for salary cap breaches.
Though much of their Championship promotion campaign was fought with their best players on loan, Saracens reformed their group and went straight to the final.
Among those who had a barnstorming season was No8 Billy Vunipola, whose performances earned him a call-up for England’s summer tour to Australia.
“I think Billy was very clear last year in what he wanted to achieve but at the very root of it all was him wanting to do his very best for his mates at the club,” Shaw added.
“He’s very important to us and loved very much, he’s central to what we do. He approached it well last year, he knew it was going to be hard work and he wanted to do hard work for the club, and I think he’s done exactly that.
“You only needed to see his performance in the final – that was Billy at his very best.”
The north London club have lost the likes of Vincent Koch to Wasps and Richard Barrington to Agen but have strengthened elsewhere, including the acquisition of hotly tipped lock Hugh Tizard, 22, from Harlequins.
And with Saracens receiving their first bye in the opening round, the team have been able to return to pre-season a week late.
“You have to adapt [in this league], Shaw added. “Last year we had it [bye week] in the second week of the season.
“We got to the final last year and we gained a week [in pre-season]. It also means that when you get to the business end of the season, after the Six Nations, we’ll have a run-in of games rather than having to sacrifice a game.”
Saracens’ opening game on 17 September will see them travel south of the Thames to the Stoop to play Harlequins before they host Gloucester in round three.
“There’s lots of ways [to push on],” Shaw added. “We are immensely proud of what we achieved last year.
“The feeling after the final was that there’s so much more that can come from the group.”