December 6 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Friday, August 30, 2013
New signing James Johnstone made his Saracens debut in last week’s nine-try friendly romp past Cornish Pirates and then declared his desire for a league and cup double in the forthcoming campaign.
The Hendon side’s only Premiership title came in 2011 and they are yet to claim the Heineken Cup, suffering semi-final heartbreak in both the competitions last term.
Sarries return to Allianz Park tomorrow to complete their pre-season preparations against Championship side Bedford Blues, following on from a ruthless 61-3 victory over Cornish Pirates, in which Ben Ransom and a revitalised-looking Chris Ashton – fresh from a summer without international tour rugby - bagged braces.
Combined with the typically miserly defensive display that was the cornerstone of their last campaign, it was enough to persuade Johnstone that the top-flight title he won with Harlequins in 2012 won’t be his last.
“Saracens have done really well in the Premiership for years and I believe we can take the Heineken [Cup] as well,” the tighthead prop said.
Johnstone is the second of his family to play for club after older brother Census spent three years in the Men in Black’s front row before leaving for record four-time European Cup winners Toulouse in 2009 – a club Sarries will face in this season’s group stages at Wembley in October.
And with his eye also on European domination, motivation doesn’t come much more primitive than sibling rivalry.
“It’s a big motivation to get ahead of him when we play against Toulouse,” said Johnstone junior. “I’m looking forward to beating him up.”
That’s just a hint at the kind of competitor Saracens have on their hands but the truer test was at scrum time and Johnstone and his new pack pals were fairly fearsome in their domination of the set piece against Pirates, despite the absence of two of his new front row rivals.
Mako Vunipola and Matt Stevens both were both part of the British and Irish Lions successful tour of Australia and Johnstone is looking forward to learning all he can from the front rowers.
He said: “It will be a huge competition [for a place] but for Saracens it’s not about that. It’s about working to the rotations and getting together as a team.
“It’s something I can learn from. He’s [Stevens] a person that’s played for the Lions, which is a huge honour.”