December 9 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Saracens forward coach Alex Sanderson has targeted the Gloucester set-piece as an area of weakness but has called for consistency from referees after a frustrating introduction to the new scrum laws.
The Hendon outfit couldn’t have asked for a better result as they opened their Aviva Premiership campaign with a 42-20 victory over London Irish at Twickenham, but there were teething problems all round as players, officials and fans alike struggled to adjust to the new sequence changes in their competitive unveiling.
Sarries will hope to maintain their perfect start on Sunday in what will be their maiden outing at Allianz Park this term, but Sanderson insists the pack downs need greater attention from officials.
“Across the board, it was refereed differently to how it was in the pre-season,” the former Sale and Sarries back row said.
“When we know [how they will do it] it will be fine and everyone can coach to those parameters.”
One issue was the length of time it took to complete scrums compared to pre-season games, and that appeared to affect both team’s ability to operate.
“This is our frustration,” Sanderson said, adding: “In warm-up games the process hasn’t been that long, yet in that game it was.
“You’ve got eight players in a stress position and if that call [from the referee] is two seconds longer than we’ve practised, or what we’ve been told it is going be, then undoubtedly there are going to be early engagements, which there were.
“Hopefully that issue will be resolved, moving forward.
“We can only go from how Wayne Barnes refereed last weekend, to see how it’s going to be this weekend.
“Other people will look at Greg Garner and look at the length of his cadence. There was a lot of frustration there.
“But as long as they’re consistent, which they generally are because our referees are good, then we can coach to it.”
Asked if referees still need more help to manage the specialist situations, Sanderson said: “I think so.
“There are so many things to look at and it’s such a complex dynamic, there are so many different ways in which you can cheat – not that we do, but there are.
“If the referee is looking at the ball coming in straight – which is one of the new directives this year – how on earth can he be looking at the angle of tightheads or looseheads? He can’t focus on all those things at one time.
“As much as I and other coaches have recommended [help for referees] there’s still been nothing done about that.”
It has meant scummaging was the first order of business for Saracens’ forwards when they returned to training on Tuesday.
First was to correct faults that arose against Irish but second was to devise way in which to exploit a Gloucester side who, while being tipped by some pundits to break into the division’s top four, slumped to an opening day defeat to last term’s basement battlers Sale Sharks.
“The set pieces are a big area,” the Sarries coach said, adding: “Gloucester suffered both in the lineout maul and in the scrum [against Sale], so it’s an area we feel we’ll have an advantage and one we want to target.”
But Sanderson does not fear a backlash from the Cherry and Reds after that shock result last Saturday, preferring to focus on his team’s abilities. While his front row will need a period of adjustment with set pieces, they were sharp in open play, notching three of Saracens’ four tries against the Exiles.
Hooker Jamie George bagged a first half brace and Mako Vunipola bustled over while wing Chris Ashton added a late fourth to complete a bonus point victory that have put the squad in high spirits.
“Everyone is so motivated at the moment and, in the second game of the season, if you need to look for extra motivation then there has got to be something wrong with you,” Sanderson said.
“Gloucester are a proud team and in those areas in which they were beaten in, they would have worked hard this week.
“The set-piece is one area we’ve identified but they’ve got such a strong back line as well.
“For turnovers, broken play and kick returns they are one of the best teams in the league, if not the best with the back three they’ve got and how unpredictable Freddie Burns is, even from his own 22.
“We are aware we can’t switch off, we’ve got to stay alive at every moment because they can go 80 metres to score tries as they did against Munster in a warm-up game.”
On the injury front, Saracens will have Duncan Taylor and Neil de Kock available for selection this weekend while Alex Goode, Kelly Brown and Will Fraser are all set to return over the next three weeks.