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Saracens begin life in second tier insisting there is no chip on their shoulder

Saracens finally begin life in English rugby’s second division this weekend insisting they do not have a chip on their shoulder.

Fourteen months after being relegated for salary cap breaches, the former kings of Europe start their Championship campaign against Cornish Pirates.

World Cup winner Vincent Koch will make the 580-mile round trip to Penzance on Saturday along with Scotland duo Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor.

And though Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Elliot Daly, Jamie George and the Vunipola brothers are away on Six Nations duty, they will be available for selection thereafter.

Scotland flanker Gary Graham, who spent last season gaining promotion with Newcastle, warned Saracens that they will be “shocked” by what they find.

“It’s the cup final for everyone,” he said.” Everyone is flying into it and you have got young lads now that want to take your head off every opportunity.”

Scotland centre Duncan Taylor (left) celebrates one of Saracens’ three Champions Cup triumphs

There is no doubt it will be a culture shock for a club which in the past decade has won three European Cups and been crowned English champions five times.

But backs coach Kevin Sorrell believes the players who have signed up for the mission know where they need to be “in terms of the attitude and physicality that’s coming”.

Sorrell played over 300 games for Saracens and has seen it all in their rise from council park club to the top of the game and down the other side.

Saracens backs coach Kevin Sorrell during his playing days for the Londoners
Saracens backs coach Kevin Sorrell during his playing days for the Londoners

His view is that there will be no hangover or bitterness from last season’s bruising ordeal off the pitch and that the page has been turned.

“Emotion only carries you so far,” he said. “It might get you a short-term reaction but it’s far better to have something bigger to aim for as a driver.

“The situation last season was what it was and we find ourselves where we are. But I don’t think we’re using that in terms of feeling hard done by or as a chip on our shoulder.

Saracens begin their Championship odyssey against the Pirates in Penzance on Saturday
Saracens begin their Championship odyssey against the Pirates in Penzance on Saturday

“The stronger driver is what it’s always been at this club: what you can bring and what you earn off the back of what you’re prepared to do.”

The 11-club league is divided into two conferences, with the winners playing each other home and away for the one available place in the Premiership.

“People underestimate what a full-blooded and committed league the Championship is,” warned Exeter boss Rob Baxter. “Saracens would be unwise to take it lightly, but I really don’t think they will.”

Exeter boss Rob Baxter
Exeter boss Rob Baxter

Sorrell confirmed as much, which is wise given Sarries lost twice in pre-season to Ealing, whom they are expected to face again in the final.

First, however, they need to hit the right notes against the Pirates from Penzance.




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