European Champions Saracens announced their plans for the season with a crushing 55 point demolition of Northampton. Ralph Ellis tells why he's backing them to carry on that way...
"They are [3.3] to retain the European Champions Cup and that also looks a generous price. The depth of squad is underlined by the fact that five of their biggest stars weren’t involved in the win over Saints."
We live in an age of sports science. In every team game there seems to be more people sat in the dressing room with laptops than players on the field.
They measure running, stopping, heart rates, passes, shots, tackles, just about everything in between the four lines. And outside the pitch there's diet, hydration, injury prevention, and that's even before the sports psychologist and his team get through the door.
They have meetings both individually and collectively analysing hours of video clips to talk about "decision making" and tactics.
But the bizarre thing is that for all the science, the difference between losing and winning at elite level still so often comes down to the art form of creating a team ethic. It's where the All Blacks have set themselves apart from the rest, and why, for instance, the Wales football team reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals while a far more talented English side got sent home by Iceland.
I loved this quote from Saracens director of rugby, talking about the various bonding trips that his European Champions get sent away on.
"We live in a professional era but the truth," he said, "is that professional rugby still requires a bit of amateurism."
It's an old school idea, but with three Premiership titles and two European Cups in the current Saracens era it's hard to argue that McCall, who has been in charge for seven years, doesn't know what he's talking about.
The build up to the start of this season involved a trip to Bermuda, ostensibly to play a match against a USA Islanders team (they won 92-0), but mostly to have a great time in the sunshine. There are great videos of Maku Vunipola doing a belly flop with triple twist and pike!
The way that Saracens announced themselves to a new rugby season when they ran in seven tries in the first half against Northampton Saints at Twickenham on their way to a scary 55-24 victory shows that it works.
You can back them at [2.1] to be this season's Grand Final Winners and at around even money to be the Regular Season Winners of the Aviva Premiership. After the weekend one both bets look like winners because Saracens are so far ahead in terms of quality and depth of squad.
They are [3.3] to retain the European Champions Cup and that also looks a generous price. The depth of squad is underlined by the fact that five of their biggest stars - the Vunipola brothers, Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Liam Williams - weren't involved in the win over Saints.
If you then look at the recruitment this summer to back up players who were already European Champions, it seems even more awesome. Seven new recruits including British Lion Williams are all internationals from France, Wales, Australia and England.
Of the rivals Wasps, [3.65], have made impressive progress under Dai Young and also ran in 50 points on the opening weekend while Leicester, [4.4], have recruited aggressively. Bath [6.0], who won at Welford Road on Sunday, have a cunning plan under new head coach Todd Blackadder to focus more on their forward play.
But none of them have the depth and breadth of talent that Saracens can offer. And none of them are likely to have such fun while they are winning, either.