Worcester head coach and former Scotland cap Carl Hogg materminded a stunning win over Saracens in February. Here he explains how he did it:
Saracens are the best side in the Premiership at creating pressure. They do this in a number of ways. Firstly, they have a high quality set piece that attempts to disrupt the quality of your primary possession. They will put maximum pressure on your kickers, creating poor kicks what they will return with interest, scoring a significant amount of tries from kick return.
Secondly, Saracens’ real point of difference is their line speed defence: fast, straight and very aggressive. The “Wolf Pack”, as the Sarries forwards like to be known, get great energy from making big hits behind the gain-line.
The other major weapon is their kicking game which is scripted and very accurate. Their principle is to kick contestable, either regaining the ball in the aerial battle or smash your receiver and create mayhem at the ensuing breakdown.
We played them just after Gary Gold arrived at Worcester [as director of rugby] and had a very specific game plan against Saracens. We were determined to keep our half of the pitch clean, and not give Saracens the opportunity to smash us behind gain-lines. We stayed extremely patient in the kicking battle. The kicking game was hugely important to us that afternoon, turning their defence around and targeting their back three players.
The Saracens team we beat at Sixways was a side very much weakened by Six Nations call-ups and uncharacteristically conceded lots of penalties. Although we didn’t score a try, Ryan Mills kicked eight out of nine penalties in a 24-18 win.
The other part of plan was to have runners off the scrum-half. If you pass back to ten it gives Sarries the opportunity to come off the line and dominate the gainline. By running phase play shapes off nine you negate their line speed, the additional benefit is that you’re attacking their front row defenders. Blind side or short side plays also eliminate the much vaunted Wolf Pack’s line speed defence.