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Saracens: BTSport.com's Gallagher Premiership 2019/20 season preview

After a thrilling 2018/19 season that saw Sarries complete a domestic and European double, the challenge now is to try to maintain those lofty heights despite several stars flying their flags at the World Cup.

Last season's Gallagher Premiership finish: Winners (2nd in the table W16 D0 L6 - Pts 78)

This season's target: Retain their crown

Last season's top try scorer: Alex Lewington (9)

Odds to win the Premiership: 10/11 (odds correct at the time of writing)

First four fixtures: Northampton Saints (H), Leicester Tigers (A), London Irish (A), Gloucester (A)

Transfers in: Elliot Daly (Wasps), Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues), Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors), Alex Day (Cornish Pirates), Josh Ibuanokpe (Harlequins), Sam Wainwright (RGC 1404)

Transfers out: Chrisopher Tolofua (Toulon), Reuban Bird-Tulloch (Northampton Saints), Sione Vailanu (Wasps), Schalk Burger (released), Marcelo Bosch (retired), David Strettle (retired), Hayden Thompson-Stringer (Brive), Henry Taylor (Northampton Saints), Billy Walker (Nottingham), Tom Griffiths (Dragons), Oli Morris (Worcester Warriors), Alfie Scopes (Loughborough Students), Alex Gliksten (Bedford Blues), Tadgh McElroy (released), Dominic Day (San Diego Legion)

Never want to miss a Saracens game? You can watch live matches all season long in the Gallagher Premiership, Premiership Rugby Cup and Heineken Champions Cup on BT Sport. If you’re not yet a subscriber, find out how we can get you signed up in just 15 minutes.

Read on for BTSport.com's in-depth Saracens season preview, or check out more from our exclusive series:

Bath | Bristol Bears | Exeter Chiefs | Gloucester | Harlequins | Leicester Tigers | London Irish | Northampton Saints | Sale Sharks | Wasps | Worcester Warriors

Join now to watch Gallagher Premiership Rugby all season long on BT Sport

The story of last season

The reigning Gallagher Premiership Rugby champions began last season like a runaway train, beginning their title defence with nine consecutive wins, including bonus-point victories over Northampton, Bath and Gloucester.

That winning run was ended by perennial title rivals and eventual final opponents Exeter Chiefs, with the Devon side replacing Saracens at the top of the table after a 31-13 triumph at Sandy Park.

Meanwhile, their progress in the Heineken Champions Cup provided no stumbling blocks as they sailed through to the knockout stages with a perfect pool-stage record.

With the club's stars juggling international, European and domestic duties, further defeats to Gloucester, Bath and a shock reverse to Bristol Bears ultimately saw them finish behind Chiefs at the end of the regular season.

Their second-place finish set up a semi-final encounter with in-form Gloucester, with a place at Twickenham up for grabs.

Just two weeks after demolishing Leinster to win their fourth European crown. Sarries saw off the Cherry and Whites at Allianz Park to book a date at Twickenham with regular season table-toppers, Exeter.

What ensued was one of the greatest findal-day showdowns in Premiership history.

The newly-crowned European champions overturned an 11-point deficit to beat the Chiefs in a fitting finale to a scintilatting season.

Australian scrum-half Nic White put Exeter ahead after just 27 seconds.

Saracens responded through tries for Jamie George and Ben Spencer before Dave Ewers restored Exeter's lead.

Jonny Hill and then Henry Slade put Exeter 27-16 up, but tries by Liam Williams, Sean Maitland and George saw Sarries retain their crown and win a fourth league title in five years.

Sam Hill's last-second try was a mere consolation for Exeter, who have lost all three of their final appearances against Saracens.

Hopes for this season

Saracens go into the 2019/20 campaign bidding to maintain their vice-like grip on the Premiership crown.

The north London club have contested four of the last five finals - winning on each occasion, taking their overall tally to six league titles - and the expectation is that they will once again be the team to beat this time around. 

Last year's vanquished finalists Exeter Chiefs will once again be the most likely challengers to Saracens' hegemony but the reigning champions have the psychological edge on their Devon foes having bested them in the last two Twickenham finals. 

The acquisition of England full-back Elliot Daly is an ominous signing for the rest of the league.

Daly will link up with a back three that already contains extraordinary firepower in the form of Liam Williams, Alex Goode and Sean Maitland, giving Sarries one of the most exciting back-lines in Europe.

Director of Rugby Mark McCall's only nagging concern will be how long it will take to get his star performers back to full fitness after their World Cup exploits. 

Saracens have 15 players representing their countries in Japan and many of those could feature in the World Cup final on November 2, meaning the champions could be without their best players for at least two weeks of the season. 

Rugby World Cup absentees

Sean Maitland, Duncan Taylor, Vincent Koch, Juan Figallo, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Owen Farrell, Jack Singleton, George Kruis, Elliot Daly, Liam Williams, Rhys Carre,Titi Lamositele.

Key man: Ben Spencer

The young scrum-half was unlucky not to earn a call-up to Eddie Jones' World Cup squad after playing a key role in Saracens' march to a second domestic and European Cup double. 

Since superceding Richard Wiggelsworth as the club's first-choie nine, the 27-year-old has proved he possesses the athleticism, passing and game-management to be a complete scrum-half.

A try scorer in last season's final at Twickenham, the Stockport-born half-back will be even more crucial to his side's fortunes given the early-season absence of chief playmaker Owen Farrell.

Already one of the first names on McCall's teamsheet, don't be surprised if he is in an England shirt come the start of the Six Nations next February.

One to watch: Max Malins

This could a breakout season for the talented playmaker. 

With Farrell likely to be away with England until November at the earliest, the 22-year-old has a genuine opportunity to stake a claim as Saracens' chief playmaker.

The youngster won the under-20 World Cup with England at fly-half, but his pace and agility saw him fill in at full-back on a number of occasions last season, leading Saracens to the final of the Premiership Rugby Cup.

“Max is a brilliant young player and a brilliant young talent,” said Director of Rugby McCall.

“We’re trying to work out where his best position is. There’s a real history of people who’ve started life as a 10, gone back to 15 and that’s allowed them to be an even better 10.

“There’s also people who’ve gone back to 15 and stayed there. Alex Goode is a good example, Damian McKenzie of New Zealand, Beauden Barrett played at 15 and became a better 10 as a result. Danny Cipriani. Giving Max the exposure at 15 we think is going to develop his game and it’s just where it ends up is the unknown.

“I’m excited about him at 15. He’s a brilliant broken-field runner, he’s got incredible acceleration and sees the game beautifully. He’s got all the attributes you’d want.”

Upcoming Premiership fixtures live on BT Sport

19/10/2019 - Saracens v Northampton Saints (3pm, BT Sport 2 HD and Ultimate)

27/10/2019 - Leicester Tigers v Saracens (2.30pm, BT Sport 1 HD and Ultimate)

09/11/2019 - Gloucester v Saracens (2.30pm, BT Sport 2 HD)

29/11/2019 - Bath v Saracens (7.45pm kick off)

29/12/2019 - Exeter Chiefs v Saracens (3pm kick off)

Find out all of our games chosen for live coverage across the first eight rounds, with 22 matches being shown on TV before the end of 2019.

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