Saracens prop Mako Vunipola sees the increased competitiveness of the Aviva Premiership as a key reason why his side have yet to secure their play-off place.
The London-based club sit in fifth on level points with Exeter Chiefs, but have a smaller points difference going into the final game of the season.
This comes just 12 months after they topped the table, before going onto losing the Grand Final to Northampton Saints.
Article continues below
More competition in the Premiership
“It is getting tougher and tougher every year,” the England international told GiveMeSport.
“For us, the players, we have to move on from last year and try to improve every year.
Article continues below
“I think that is just a testament to how much more competitive the league is and we have just got to handle it as best as we can.”
The Sarries face London Welsh on Saturday, needing a victory to give them the best chance of earning a top four spot.
Last year’s champions, Northampton, will finish top of table, with Bath finishing just behind them.
Yet, the remaining two places are still up for grabs, with Leicester Tigers just a point ahead of Exeter.
Better talent for England
Vunipola believes it is good for the sport that these clubs are pushing for the play-off places as well as Saracens.
“It’ll hopefully grow the game in England and help us for when the younger players are coming through for the national side,” said the 24-year-old loosehead prop.
“I think the better the league, and the more competitive the league is, hopefully the English squad will be all the better for it.”
Should Saracens reach the play-offs, they will be looking to go one better than last season, and Vunipola would certainly love to claim his first Premiership crown.
“I think every player is trying to win trophies and to win a Premiership trophy, it just shows how much hard work you put in every year,” said the New Zealand-born forward.
“It has been a long old year and then it comes down to 80 minutes of rugby.”
‘Dream come true’
While the prop would love to claim the Premiership title with Saracens this season, playing alongside his younger brother Billy for England at the World Cip would top everything.
The Vunipolas are expected to be chosen to feature in the sport’s top competition in September, where the hosts will face rivals Australia and Wales in the group stages, alongside Fiji and Uruguay.
“It would be massive, it’ll be a dream come true. After coming from Tonga to England for a better life, it’ll be a combination of all the hard work and hopefully it’ll come to fruition."
The pair have become some the nation’s top stars, winning 37 caps between them, since Mako made his debut in November 2012, and his younger brother played his first match the following June.
First, the Vunipolas will have to focus on their upcoming encounter with London Welsh, as they bid to help the Sarries to reach the play-offs for the sixth year in a row.
BT Sport is the exclusive home of Aviva Premiership rugby. Watch both Aviva Premiership Semi Finals on May 23, and the Final from Twickenham on May 30, exclusively live on BT Sport 1.