Strettle: Sarries are smart, not boring
May 24, 2011
David Strettle: 'Defence key to dethroning Leicester'%]
Saracens wing David Strettle has hit back at critics of their style - insisting that their success is based on 'smart' rugby.
The Aviva Premiership finalists, who face Leicester in Saturday's showpiece at Twickenham, came under fire after their 12-10 play-off victory against Gloucester nine days ago.
Bryan Redpath, the Cherry and Whites' head coach, accused them of playing "risk-free" rugby, while centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu was far more scathing in a Twitter attack.
Sarries were branded "Horribly boring but very clinical" by the Samoan international, who added: "No wonder my Super15 friends are making jokes about northern hemisphere rugby. Boring rugby wins."
Despite the criticism it is hard to argue with Sarries' recent performances - they've racked up 11 successive Premiership wins, 12 in all competitions.
"We're a team that can change our gameplan to what is needed at the time," Strettle said. "Sometimes that's kicking away possession and putting pressure on the opposition; at other times it's a case of playing phase-play.
"I wouldn't call it risk-free or boring rugby - it's smart rugby. You play the percentages - that's what you do in sport. Ultimately, it's been very successful - we're in the Premiership final. We want to entertain the crowds but at the same time we're professional sportsmen.
"We get paid to win rugby games, so that's what we go out to do. We are very good at doing what the game dictates. I couldn't think of anything more stupid than throwing the ball around against Gloucester - they're one of the best teams in the Premiership at playing like that. If you start playing Sevens against teams like them Bath and Harlequins, the game opens up and they score lots of tries."
Saracens enter the rematch of last year's grand final - which Leicester edged 33-27 in dramatic circumstances - with a first Premiership double over the Tigers in the bank. Strettle insists a second successive league win at Welford Road has convinced them that they are capable of seizing their first English league title.
"I hope we've got Leicester's number, but finals are a completely different thing," he said. "We've done the double on them, but you only have to look at how close the game was at their place to know how tight it will be.
"That win at Welford Road does give us confidence because it's such a hard place to go. We're going into the game knowing we can win. It's funny because many players will go their whole career without winning at Welford Road.
"I've spoken to a couple of our South African players and they've played there twice and won twice. It's great credit to the squad that's forming at Saracens that we can go to places like that, Bath and Northampton and perform at that level."
Leicester will be appearing in their seventh successive Premiership final and are targeting an 11th English league title. Despite all the talk of negative tactics, Strettle believes Leicester's perennial presence in the final will win Saracens the neutral vote at Twickenham on Saturday.
"Leicester go into every game expecting to win and that's why they're such a good team," he said. "You don't win as many title as they have without that sort of mentality. It should be a great final between the country's two best teams - there were no shocks in the semis. Neutrals will want it to be a Saracens year as well because it will mean Leicester won't have won - again."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Proposals to remove promotion and relegation from the Aviva Premiership would be for the good of the game overall, argues John Taylor
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery