Gaffney picking up pieces

Saracens boss Alan Gaffney blames previous coaching regimes for the club's years of underachievement and believes careful man-management will result in a change of fortunes. [more]

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Saracens boss Alan Gaffney blames previous coaching regimes for the club’s years of underachievement and believes careful man-management will result in a change of fortunes.

The Vicarage Road outfit have endured lean pickings since lifting the domestic cup in 1998, failing to win any more silverware despite spending heavily on big-name signings.

Inconsistency has plagued the club and while Gaffney admits the players must shoulder some of the responsibility, he hints they have suffered from poor handling of their workloads.

"The players have to address the inconsistency but a lot of it goes back to man-management," he said.

"We have to make sure that the players have sufficient rest. More is not better. As coaches we have to manage them.

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"The players usually attract the blame for bad performances but the coaches should also take a fair degree of the flak themselves.

"If a coach thinks we’ll get better if we train more, more and more it’s absolute tripe.

"We have to manage the players and talk to the physios and conditioning guys to make sure we get optimum performance from the players week in week out.

"This year we may tell a player that after six weeks he should go away for a week. We will send players away. Players can’t perform for 10, 12 or 14 weeks at a time."

Saracens open their campaign against Wasps at Twickenham on Saturday hoping to continue the form they produced in the second half of last season’s Guinness Premiership.

They made a dismal start and quickly found themselves in danger of relegation with director of rugby Steve Diamond failing to inspire a move away from the bottom.

Decisive action was taken – Diamond was sacked and former Australia coach Eddie Jones was hired on a consultancy basis in a move which paid rich dividends.

Their fortunes took a dramatic turn for the better and with Gaffney implementing an attacking gameplan, they could be a force to be reckoned with this season.

"We have been concentrating on a lot of basic skill work and we have got to get those levels up. We want to play a style of rugby that is expansive," he said.

"That doesn’t necessarily mean giving the ball to the winger every time, but I want every player to run with the ball in the hand. We’re developing a situation where we have that skill.

"But we also want to be able to put the ball in the corners. We can play the game in a number of ways and have a number of people who can play that way as well."

Skipper Hugh Vyvyan revealed there is a steely determination to avoid a repeat of last term’s Premiership opening.

"There is not huge expectation on the team. We certainly don’t feel any pressure to come near the top at the end of the season. We’ve just got to improve week in, week out," he said.

"All of the players are well aware of what happened last season and we have to make sure it doesn’t happen this year. Pre-season has gone well and the Wasps game will show how far we’ve come.

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