Will Saracens dominate English rugby after Premiership and European double?

By Rob StevensBBC Sport
Saracens celebrate
Saracens have won the Premiership title three times; in 2011, 2015 and 2016

Saracens emulated Leicester Tigers and Wasps on Saturday when they became the third English team to clinch a domestic and European double.

Sarries retained their Premiership title by beating Exeter 28-20 at Twickenham, adding the league crown to the European Champions Cup they won earlier this month.

Wasps were the last side to achieve that feat in 2004, while Saracens are also the first side to win back-to-back titles since Leicester in 2010.

Having featured in five of the last six major English and continental finals, BBC Sport looks at the reasons behind the success at Allianz Park and asks whether the north London side can go on to dominate English rugby union.

A squad game

Saracens used 41 different players in the Premiership this season, having to utilise their squad in full as they fought on two fronts.

"I'm so pleased for the whole club - from supporters and directors to management and players," Saracens captain Brad Barritt told BBC Radio London.

"It has been a huge collective effort over the whole season. To go and do it in both competitions and get the double means the world to everyone."

The spring proved a challenging period for the club, with seven of Saturday's starting XV helping England to win the Six Nations Grand Slam.

However, Sarries could call on the experience of players such as the Premiership's all-time points scorer Charlie Hodgson, scrum-half Neil de Kock and Namibia's Jacques Burger to help them when they were shorn of their internationals.

"It is about being relentless," added 29-year-old England centre Barritt. "This club prides itself on delivering a performance week in, week out."

A 'Wolfpack' mentality

Jackson Wray and Neil de Kock celebrate with Alex Goode after the full-back's late try against Exeter
Saracens full-back Alex Goode (right) was named Premiership player of the year

Speak to many Saracens players and staff and they talk of the atmosphere and ethos around the club and their 'Wolfpack' mentality.

To quote Rudyard Kipling: "The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack."

Each Saracens player is well-drilled, allowing them to be adaptable and reactive in both defence and attack,

"Everyone in the team knows their job," said winger Chris Ashton. "If any situation arises we know how to deal with it. We all know our place, we stick to it and we do it well.

"We rely on each other. It speaks volumes about how we are as a team."

Unrivalled team spirit

Saracens celebrate
Captain Barritt says success with Saracens "means the world" to him

Saracens stress their squad mentality off the pitch as well, with chairman Nigel Wray, who has invested heavily in infrastructure and staff, describing the players as "incredibly together".

The team often receive motivational talks and organise team bonding exercises and trips abroad, such as a visit to Croatia after their Champions Cup semi-final victory.

"It is a great club of players who are driven by having success and making memories together," said Barritt.

"I'm so pleased I can do it with a group of guys who I can call my best friends. It makes it pretty special doing it with guys you love and who mean the world to you."

Flanker Will Fraser added: "I don't think people truly appreciate it unless you have been a part of it.

"In this culture, everyone believes and it has got us through some tough times, some tough games and got us to where we are today."

A building process

Mark McCall
Mark McCall has been crucial in building Saracens into a dominant force, with fly-half Hodgson adding experience on and off the pitch

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall is eager to mention the continuity at the club.

"The club's problem seven years ago was they chopped and changed as players and staff came and went," said the 48-year-old Ulsterman.

"Now it is not just about the young guys that have come through the academy. The people who have signed from elsewhere have stayed for a long period of time.

"With that continuity comes relationships and with that comes togetherness. That has been built over a seven-year period and we can see the rewards."

Can they keep it going?

Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola
Brothers Billy and Mako Vunipola show off this season's silverware

Sarries and England scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth says winning the double ranks Saracens "alongside the best teams of any era".

The next step is to emulate Leicester Tigers, who won the domestic and European double in both 2001 and 2002.

The worrying thing for the rest of the Premiership - and the top continental sides - is that the core of this Saracens squad looks set to stay together.

"There are a lot of young English players in this team that are going to be around this club for a long time," said winger Chris Wyles.

"I have no doubt with the kind of character they have got, and the players they are, there will be some more finals in our future."

Hodgson and Burger may have called time on their playing careers, but the bulk of Sarries' England contingent remain hungry for more.

"The mantra of this club has been to sustain what we've built," said Barritt. "We know the drive and hunger is still there and it burns deep within this team."

Forward Fraser, 26, added: "As a rugby payer, when you are a part of a successful team you want that success to continue for as long as possible.

"If we can all stick together and stay true to our values then hopefully that can happen."

How social media reacted

Will Greenwood
Former Leicester and Harlequins centre Will Greenwood, a World Cup winner with England in 2003, sent his congratulations to Saracens via Twitter
Bryan Habana
World Cup winner Bryan Habana had this message for fellow South Africa international Schalk Brits and two of Sarries other Africa-born players
Jack Nowell
Exeter and England winger Jack Nowell ended up on the losing side, but took some consolation despite defeat
Eoin Morgan
Eoin Morgan, captain of England's limited-overs cricket sides, sent this message to the north London club
Maro Itoje
The last word goes to Saracens and England lock Maro Itoje...

Interviews by BBC Radio London's Lucy Lomax and Emma Jones.

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