December 5 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Jackson Wray admits he’s still hurting from the heartbreak of losing in both the Premiership and Heineken Cup semi-finals last season but insists he and his Saracens pals have learnt some big lessons.
The Hendon side finished the regular season as league leaders last term and were highly fancied to add to their only title – won two years ago – but came unstuck in their home play-off semi clash against Northampton Saints.
That sour end to the campaign came after Jonny Wilkinson had performed a fly-half masterclass in Toulon colours to dump them out of the European competition at Twickenham.
Sarries return to Rugby HQ on Saturday to kick-off the new term the same way they started the last one – with a clash against London Irish.
Their 40-3 victory last September showcased the ruthless streak that would be their trademark right up until those to semi-finals and now their goal is to go one better, reach a final and bag some silverware.
“The pain of losing in two semi-finals is quite strong so hopefully this will be a good year,” Wray said.
“We’ve learnt some lessons from last year. Toulon went on to win the Heineken Cup and they were an outstanding team but we should have done better in that semi-final.
“In the Premiership it was just massively unfortunate for us.
“We were building it up but we probably played our worst game of the year and you can’t do that in a semi-final.
“This year we will try to improve every week. Hopefully we get there again and when it comes to the crunch we’ll be ready and wiser.”
The loose forward is part of a pack that Wray admits was “down to the bare bones” at times last season.
That was addressed this summer and has now been boosted by the signings of prop James Johnstone – a Premiership winner with Harlequins – and destructive No8 Billy Vunipola from Wasps, while Namibian international Jacques Burger has benefitted from a first full pre-season since coming back from a career-threatening knee injury.
That all bodes well for Sarries Scrooge-like defence who last season conceded the fewest scores in the Premiership.
“Last year we won the league [in the regular season] and that’s because our defence was the best.
“We work very hard on our defence. We are very proud of it and when you do have that defence that we have, it puts pressure on other teams.
“We want teams to worry about playing us. That’s what we’ve been aiming for in the last few years and that’s our main emphasis, going into the season.
“Going into the big game I think we should continue what we were doing last year and just have that edge that we didn’t have towards the end.
“If we do that we’ll go well.”
•Wray was speaking as Saracens visited the Metro Golf Centre which is situated yards away from Allianz Park. The club aim invest in former Copthall site, working alongside partners such as the Metro Golf Centre to deliver a vibrant sporting hub for the community.