Saracens captain Alistair Hargreaves has told GiveMeSport that his side are ready to get ‘stuck in’ to the new Aviva Premiership season.
Last season’s table-toppers begin the season against Wasps at Twickenham as part of a London double-header - but it’s not a ground with happy memories after last season’s final disappointment against Northampton.
The Saints stole a last-gasp victory to deny Sarries some domestic silverware, and Hargreaves is now tasked with rallying the troops after replacing Steve Borthwick as captain at Allianz Park.
A former South African international, the 28-year-old has described it as an honour to follow in the footsteps of the former England man, but admits there are plenty of leaders in the side to motivate and get the best out of the players.
“It's an awesome club. I love being a part of it, so I'm really looking forward to this challenge of captaincy and getting the new season underway,” he told GiveMeSport ahead of their big kick-off.
“Steve was obviously a fantastic captain but I don't see that affecting my role and position. I'm lucky enough that we have a lot of leaders on the field, so it's not just me shouting at the boys - we've got a lot of exceptional leaders with a lot of experience who can do that if needed as well.”
After the pain of domestic and European final defeat last season, Sarries must pick themselves up and go again knowing their form throughout the season was good but the results didn’t go their way when it really mattered.
Hargreaves is quick to dismiss the notion that his side don’t play well in the big games though, and insists that there is no hangover following the painful defeats to the Saints and Toulon just four months ago.
“We don't find it hard to motivate ourselves, that’s for sure. We're up for training, we're up for matches and we pride ourselves on doing our best. Obviously there are some tough games and some trying moments but we deal with them as we have done, and we're looking forward to getting stuck into it once again,” he continued.
"I feel we played really well in the semi-final against Harlequins, and I felt we played really well in the final against Northampton as well. If a couple of things had gone our way, we'd have won it no question, but we lost it in the last 30 seconds and that is professional sport.
“We played well throughout the season and we have played well in the pressure games as far as I’m concerned. We’ve been consistent, and I we're happy knowing that.”
Focusing specifically on Wasps, the lock is under no illusions that a legitimate Premiership challenger will be on the field at the home of English rugby on Saturday, with the capital rivals’ speed a particular threat.
Hargreaves is looking forward to the challenge against an exciting opponent though, and is predicting a great match for the large crowd expected.
"They're a really good side, they play an exciting brand of rugby, and we're aware of the fact that they can break and score tries with a lot of speed,” he concluded.
“We have to be aware defensively because they're always a challenge to play against and we expect nothing less this time around. It's a great match for us and for everyone on the opening day."