Tonight sees the return of rugby union at Wembley as Saracens take on Toulouse in a mouth-watering Heineken Cup encounter. We spoke to Saracens backs David Strettle and Richard Wigglesworth about the match and playing at Wembley.
Welcome back to Wembley, do you enjoy the chance to mix up your home venue?
David Strettle: It’s brilliant. We’re very lucky that Saracens put on these massive games at amazing venues and this game is another one.
Richard Wigglesworth: We’re lucky to have our own home ground at Allianz Park now but to come to Wembley is still very special.
The matches here are always high profile and the game against Toulouse is no exception...
RW: Yes, they’re a massive team, the most successful in Heineken Cup history, massive budget, loads of fans, loads of great players - it doesn’t get any bigger but those are the games you want to play in as a player. This Friday is hopefully going to be epic.
Toulouse have established themselves as one of the best in the last ten years they must be a good benchmark for your own ambitions...
DS: Definitely. You play in the Heineken Cup because you want to win it and show you’re the best team in Europe. You get to play against some top teams and there’s no bigger team to play against than Toulouse. They’ve really set the standard in the last few years in the competition. You’re only as good as your results and to get a result against them would be huge.
For such a physical sport what’s the secret to being competitive in three separate competitions throughout the season?
RW: Having a good squad for one. We pride ourselves on the fact that we rotate players and trust everyone in our squad. We’re lucky that we’ve put together a good squad and that obviously helps but a good strength and conditioning team as well that keeps you on the field is massively important as is the physio department.
How would you compare this squad to previous Saracens sides?
RW: I think it’s the best squad we’ve had. I think four or five years ago there was a major shift in players and coaches and a load of new players arrived along with some coaches. In the last three years we’ve added to that in little bursts and always with quality. We’ve been very lucky that we’ve been able to keep the lads who were there previously together. So we’ve a pretty settled squad and adding one or two a year is a great sign that everyone is happy.
Had you been to Wembley before playing here?
DS: Yes, I came to watch England play Poland years ago when I was at school. Wiggy and I are both big rugby league fans so we’ve watched our teams play here. It’s a stadium that’s synonymous with a massive day, whatever sport you play in. It’s something you want to be a part of and it’s obviously going to be a huge day for Saracens.
What did you make of England’s performance against Poland on Tuesday?
DS: Brilliant, as a supporter you want to see your team go out and want to win games and England did that. They really took it to Poland.
As players who have represented your country what is it that sets it aside from club rugby?
RW: I think the step up in intensity. These massive club games like we have on Friday night are as close to an international as you’ll find. Just the pride that you share with everyone, when you look around the room and you know how much it means to everyone else that’s stood there and how much work has gone into earning that shirt. That’s a bond that you get by playing internationals...
DS: You’re judging yourself against the best and when you look back on your career and how well you’ve done you want to say you’ve played in the biggest games against the best players and that’s what international rugby allows.
Wembley has a rich rugby league history but since the partnership with Saracens it’s fast establishing itself as a rugby union venue as well...
RW: Definitely, it’s such an iconic stadium and whatever sport you do you want to play here. It’s been a special day in the year for rugby league and for rugby union fans to be able to enjoy it as well now, it’s massive for the game. It enables the game to be experienced by a different audience as well.
You have two games at Wembley scheduled this season with another game against Harlequins in March...
RW: If we get anywhere near the same amount of people we got last time when we broke the world record that will be great. To walk into the ground and see that many people come to watch Saracens v Harlequins was pretty special and hopefully we’ll replicate that next March.
Finally, back to Friday, with the form you’re in you’ll be going for the win...
RW: Without a doubt, it’s essential to win your home games against the toughest teams in the Heineken Cup so we’ll be going all out for the win and hopefully that’s the way it goes.
Tickets for Saracens v Toulouse are available to purchase at Wembley’s East Ticket Office today subject to availability, so it’s not too late to watch the game.