Saracens reclaimed top spot from the Chiefs, with England stars Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola among their try-scorers just a week after the Red Rose completed a Six Nations clean sweep by beating France in Paris.
“It says a bit about Owen, having not played at 10 for eight or nine weeks, to produce that kind of performance, and that goes for all of our international players,” Saracens head coach McCall said.
“To win a Grand Slam and the high of that, and then to turn in the performance that they all did today says something about them.” England head coach Eddie Jones looked on at Allianz Park, with a third of his Grand Slam-winning team – Farrell, Vunipola, his brother Mako, Maro Itoje and George Kruis – all starting.
Full-back Alex Goode, flanker Jackson Wray and wing Chris Wyles also touched down for Saracens, while Farrell kicked three conversions and a penalty, with Goode adding the extras to Wyles’ 75th-minute effort.
Exeter – whose points came from number eight Thomas Waldrom’s ninth and 10th league tries of the season, two Gareth Steenson penalties and a late Will Hooley conversion – were outgunned in every key area by a Farrell-inspired home team.
Elsewhere, Worcester recorded four successive Premiership victories for the first time in their history after beating London Irish 12-6, a result that all but ensures the Warriors’ top-flight survival. Worcester followed up wins over Newcastle, Gloucester and Harlequins by seeing off fellow relegation- battlers Irish in an error-ridden and dour contest at Sixways.
There were no tries in the game, with Tom Heathcote kicking four penalties for Worcester to two from Greig Tonks for the Exiles.
Two second-half tries gave Bath a narrow 17-12 victory at local rivals Gloucester. Three penalties from Greig Laidlaw had the hosts 9-7 ahead at the interval, with Chris Cook’s try keeping Bath breathing down their necks.
Semesa Rokoduguni’s superb finish put Bath in the lead for the first time before Scotland captain Laidlaw levelled the scores with his fourth three pointer of the afternoon.
George Ford then missed a penalty as it remained 12-12, but Levi Douglas’ late try secured a dogged success.
They always say that for ex-professional athletes it’s hard letting go, but for former England, Newcastle Falcons and Toulon winger Tom May, he was told to stay in rugby union when he hung up his boots.
A 16-year career was only brought to an end last year by the 37-year-old, who called it a day with London Welsh, having represented his country at full international, A and sevens level.
May has stuck to what he knows best, rugby, setting up his own company, Everything4Rugby, who work alongside grassroots clubs, players and supporters to assist and develop amateur rugby throughout the UK.
May works alongside former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman and, together with ex-England winger Mark Cueto, they will be coming out to Dubai to put on a three-day kids rugby camp at the end of this month.
May came out for a flying visit this week to get a feel for the Emirates and Sport360 caught up with him.
You enjoyed a distinguished professional career and since retiring, you’ve stayed in the sport. Tell us about your company, Everything4Rugby?
One thing I was advised to do by Steve Black, who coached the British & Irish Lions and Newcastle Falcons when I was there, was to stick with what you know when you finish playing. To be able to give back to rugby that’s given so much to me during my career is brilliant.
We’ve developed a business that essentially tries to develop rugby on and off the field in the UK and beyond. One arm of it is that we look after camps but we look after all the things clubs need to survive on a daily basis, whether it’s gas or playing equipment. It’s taken six years of hard work and we do that for 2,000 plus clubs in the UK.
You’ve been out in the UAE this month ahead of bringing an E4R kids training camp to Dubai later this month. What are your early impressions of the sport in the UAE?
It’s been so nice to get out and see so much rugby being played across the UAE and how many kids play. It’s not one of the first things that comes to your mind when you think about the UAE but it’s fantastic to see so many kids playing. I ended up playing a touch tournament out here, the Zurich Corporate Touch 6s, for Continental.
I pretty much got off the plane and went to the tournament, and there were French guys, a Welsh guy, one from Zimbabwe, one for the Philippines and a few Emiratis. It was so good to see a form of rugby been played. I also saw an Under-7 tag tournament too. To see the standard out here was great. The coaches were keen and that was reflected in the way they were playing. I’ve been to Dubai College and Jumeirah College too and to Arabian Knights too. I’ve been busy and pleasantly surprised by the popularity of the sport here.
You went to the Dubai Sevens for the first time in 2015. How was that?
December was my first time going and there’s 2,000 teams playing. You realise how much rugby comes from the UAE. It’s not just teams flying in, it’s teams based here so it’s great to see.
I said I was surprised a bit by how popular the sport is here, but when you realise how big the sevens is, it doesn’t take much to realise there’ll be a bit of a follow-up to it throughout the year.
You won two England caps and they have a pretty important game coming up this weekend. How do you think the Six Nat-ions clash with Wales will go?
I think if they can stop Wales getting on the front foot, which will be tough, England might win. They have to stop them doing that though and Billy Vunipola has a big job up front.
Wales are the less affected team since the Rugby World Cup so it will be a tough test. I’ll be there at Twickenham so I’m looking forward to watching that.
Leicester Tigers’ Manu Tuilagi is back in the set-up after injury. How do you think Eddie Jones will use him?
I would avoid bringing Manu back in too early, as it would be disrespectful to the players who have been doing so well up to now.
Having said that I’m sure Eddie Jones will have looked at the fact England had Sam Burgess in the centre against Wales in the World Cup and were doing perfectly well in the World Cup, they swapped him for George Ford and it all seemed to fall apart. He will look to address that situation.
It’s pretty difficult to say you don’t need Tuilagi but maybe his spot might be on the bench. It will be interesting to see where they go. I would think they would put him in somewhere because he provides a headache.
If England win they could go on and win the grand slam, whereas before the tournament they’d be happy with winning three games. A grand slam now would be a pretty decent effort.
Wales have such talented players so are you surprised at how they’re struggling with any free-flowing rugby?
I don’t think they’ll be hugely happy with the way they’re playing but at the same time they’re not in the worst position ever. They always raise it for England so I think it will be a tough day for both teams
Will home advantage play much of a role?
I think whoever deals with the occasion best will come out on top. England probably aren’t favourites but I don’t think anyone ever is when you come into this fixture.
What was your career highlight?
Apart from winning my England caps it would be winning cups with Newcastle [May scored two tries as the Falcons beat Harlequins 30-27 to win the 2001 Tetley’s Bitter Cup at Twickenham and was also in the Newcastle team that beat Sale 37-33 in the 2004 final].
Who was the best player you played with?
Sonny Bill Williams at Toulon. Such natural ability. At the time he was quite hard to play with because you never really knew what he was going to do, but he was brilliant.
And the best you ever played against?
Frank Bunce. I just remember him being pretty hard. I was a young guy at the time and just the thought of coming up against Frank Bunce was pretty terrifying.
Who’s your favourite player to watch?
Matt Giteau. He’s still a very good player when he’s on form. He runs the show for Toulon when fit.
Small, slender men who graced rugby pitches in the early 20th century are almost unrecognisable compared to the giant behemoths that play the sport in modern times.
The reason for this drastic change in body shape can be traced to the development of sports science. Players now know that weight training combined with protein-heavy diets will let them pack on the pounds needed to be effective in such a physical sport.
This infographic, provided by our friends at MaxiNutrition, provides an in depth, easy-to-read analysis of rugby players past and present and also reveals a direct correlation between increasing size and frequency of serious injuries.
Let us know your thoughts on the statistics and whether you agree with the implications or not using #360Rugby.