PRESS NOTES | Alex Austerberry (Allianz PWR Rd 17)

Director of Rugby Alex Austerberry spoke to the press ahead of Saturday's clash with Gloucester-Hartpury.

As part of a wide-ranging discussion, the DoR looked at the final few weeks of the season, as his side look to continue to improve after last weekend's superb win over Exeter.

"It's always difficult this time of year. It's very much a sprint finish and you want to get up to speed very quickly. It was good to get up to a standard that has given us something to build from. Our physicality and our balance in our play was there, but there are still things we need to get better at. We could have been a little more ruthless too, but we've got a great benchmark to build from."

Austerberry was asked how he and his coaching staff prepare players when they return from international duty, with the boss explaining that it is a tailored approach for each player, as they are reacclimatised to the club environment.

"We plan in a pretty similar way each year. You know that you're going to have players coming in after excellent Six Nations campaigns and some who are disappointed. It's about communication and how we integrate them back into the squad. It's a very individual process. We want to celebrate their achievements whilst they've been away but quickly get the focus back onto what we want to achieve as a group. We want to create the Saracens environment again when players come back to us and that is a lot easier to do when we've put in the performances we have in recent games."

One of the players who returned from international duty was Sydney Gregson, who was capped at international level for the first time in nine years. Austerberry praid tribute to the determination of the centre to earn her international recall.

"It's a real credit to Sydney. Forget the player perspective, from a personal perspective, I'm really happy for her. She wears her heart on her sleeve and to get the reward for all her hard work is brilliant. It's the unseen work as well like the gym sessions before work. She's really staking her claim to be part of a really talented England midfield. I still don't think she's fully maximised her potential yet and that's really exciting. She's taken the opportunity by beating down the door and setting fire to it! She deserves the plaudits she's getting, as do the people who have helped her on the journey. Long may it continue in an England and Saracens shirt."

Saturday's opponents Gloucester-Hartpury have already confirmed top spot in the league and know that a win at StoneX Stadium will secure an unbeaten league season. Austerberry credited the work done by Sean Lynn and his coaching team down in the West Country, highlighting that he and his squad will embrace the challenge of chasing them down in the next few weeks.

"Credit to Gloucester, they've had a fantastic season. To achieve what they have this season is a credit to their team and their coaching staff. They've worked hard to be on this long unbeaten run. We've experienced that before and sometimes it brings added pressure with it, but we're not thinking about what they are doing. It's all about what we need to do to put ourselves in the best possible place. We know what a test this weekend is going to be, but we need to keep controlling what we can to secure that home semi-final berth. I embrace the tests in this period though. We want to be properly pushed to see how we match-up. You'd rather have that now than in the backend of a semi-final and realising you're undercooked. There will be more challenges to understand where we're at and hopefully that will put us in a pretty good place."