Andy Christie exclusive: Scotland flanker reveals secret weapon to Saracens success as Champions Cup begins

Saracens back-rower Andy Christie has been in excellent form so far this season (Getty Images)
Saracens back-rower Andy Christie has been in excellent form so far this season (Getty Images)

Andy Christie has revealed the "no-brainer" secret weapon helping Saracens stars realise their potential as former England flanker Calum Clark.

Scotland back-rower Christie has hailed performance psychologist Clark as vital in his quest to turn professional sport’s highs and lows into long-term upward trends.

Ex-Saracen Clark helped the club lift the 2023 Premiership title as head of psychological performance before striking out this summer with his own firm. Christie and England duo Theo Dan and Ben Earl have all continued to work with Clark, engaging the 34-year-old’s services on a private basis.

Last term, Clark helped Earl transform from Test fringe operator to England’s top World Cup performer, while hooker Dan powered into Steve Borthwick’s senior ranks.

Christie found himself catapulted to the brink of Scotland’s World Cup squad, only for a broken arm to deny him the chance to play in France.

The 24-year-old has quickly struck back to full fitness and top form in the new campaign, though, and will step out against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria in Saturday's Champions Cup opener.

Christie enjoyed a Safari outing with his team-mates this week, but credits Clark for helping him mix it with rugby’s biggest beasts.

Calum Clark played for Sarries and was also their head of psychological performance (Getty Images)
Calum Clark played for Sarries and was also their head of psychological performance (Getty Images)

“The work Calum’s done with me is genuinely phenomenal,” he tells Standard Sport. “There’s so much pressure at a club that has back-rowers like Billy Vunipola, Theo McFarland, Ben Earl - and before that Jackson Wray, Michael Rhodes, Schalk Burger, and many more.

"It can be hard to trust what you have and not try to be a version of someone else.

“It was hard for me at times not to look and say, ‘This is what’s working for Billy, so I somehow need to be like Billy’, because I think you can look at me and say genetically that’s impossible!

“There are so many ups and downs, but trending upwards is the idea. He’s mapped out almost like a five-year plan. He said over the five years these are your targets, but we get there day by day.

“Although you want a constant incline, it’s the understanding that within that there’s going to be setbacks. It’s been a no-brainer for me to keep working with him.”

Christie revealed Clark’s candour concerning his own experiences adds a layer of realism to his new venture, Innate High Performance.

“He has such a hunger to help lead me away from some elements of his career that he didn’t enjoy,” says Christie.

"The work Calum’s done with me is genuinely phenomenal"

Saracens flanker Andy Christie

“He’ll be the first to tell you he didn’t get the feelings he would have wanted from his rugby career, which is almost rare. As much as there were high points, there were lots of lows.

“He’s helped me understand my passions and ambitions. On that list of goals was playing at the World Cup, and playing in the Prem final. Through injury I wasn’t able to do that, but you can still make progress, make the most of what’s next.”

Three-time winners of the Champions Cup, Saracens will start their latest title tilt against the Bulls on Saturday.

After a galling 18-12 home loss to Northampton last week, a new adventure in Pretoria has refreshed Mark McCall's men.

"We don’t chase results as much as we do chase feelings and performances," says Christie. "Then it’s knowing that the results will come.

"That’s something that I’ve learned over my time here and that’s something we’re definitely over this week and for the weeks to follow."