Get involved: send your pictures, video, news & views by texting TIMES NEWS to 80360, or email us
Saracens fan Ben Ireland explains why Men in Black must be careful with rotation policy to maintain strong start
Five wins out of five and six points clear at the top of the Premiership table means it's so far so good for Saracens this season.
But to use a popular rugby cliché, nothing ever gets won in October - only in May.
As such, the job of Mark McCall and co. at this stage is not so much to win every game but to combat the attritional nature of such a long season, so that these early successes will not be in vain.
This is where player welfare, and the big buzzword "rotation", come in.
The coaches copped a fair amount of criticism for changing 13 of the previous week's XV for the game against Wasps - and we were nearly left blushing.
However, while that may have been quite a ham-fisted approach to rotating the squad, the principle was spot on.
The last Heineken Cup swings into action this weekend, so this is the period of the season when squad management is most crucial.
Fighting on just one front is not an option for such a high-quality and ambitious group as Sarries.
There is not just general fatigue to consider either; injuries to Rhys Gill and Charlie Hodgson, for example, have meant more game time than is ideal for our already overworked young British Lions, Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola.
But for the sake of the club and the individual, player welfare has to be the top priority.
Which is why I was delighted when we sent Matt Stevens off to New York last week, and Jacques Burger to his native Namibia for his dad's wedding.
All players, but especially the elder statesmen, will not appreciate being overplayed, and their performances will reflect it, as will the longevity of their career.
Conversely, the likes of Burger, Stevens and Borthwick will be able to contribute more strongly to the team off the back of these breaks.
And the size and depth of the Men in Black's squad this year increases the need for rotation even more.
Firstly, it means that changed starting line-ups shouldn't necessarily be any weaker.
Take the situation at hooker (Brits vs George), scrum half (De Kock vs Wigglesworth) or wing (Strettle vs Tagicakibau) as examples.
The wholesale alterations seen against Wasps were forced by a lack of foresight in previous weeks.
The coaches should have the wherewithal to rotate more subtly and more effectively.
There is another level of pressure too - when you look at the calibre of young players who are struggling for game time - Nick Auterac, Jackson Wray, Ben Spencer, Ben Ransom, Tim Streather.
Over the 40+ games of the season, it should be possible for every player - from international to academy - to play enough rugby but not too much.
If the wrong balance is struck, the result will be burnout in the knockout games, and people wanting to leave the club to further their careers.
The start of the season has been extremely successful - but this is the challenge that now faces our coaching team.
Trips to Connacht and Northampton, and the game against Toulouse, will be a great test.
Comments are closed on this article.