Saracens performance director Phil Morrow to join Lions tour

Gerard Meagher
The Guardian
<span class="element-image__caption">Phil Morrow, left, with Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall who credits his performance director for much of his club’s success in recent years.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Joe Toth/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Phil Morrow, left, with Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall who credits his performance director for much of his club’s success in recent years. Photograph: Joe Toth/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Phil Morrow, Saracens’ performance director, has been recruited by Warren Gatland for the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand this summer.

Morrow will link up with the Lions as part of the strength and conditioning team. After arriving in 2011, Morrow has helped Saracens to two Premiership titles as well as their first ever European title.

Since their defeat by Clermont in 2015, Saracens have also won their last eight knockout matches and are well fancied to become the first side to successfully defend the Premiership and European double since Leicester 15 years ago.

Mark McCall, who brought Morrow to the club after a stint with Ireland at the 2011 World Cup, credits his former Ulster colleague with his side’s ability to peak in the later stages of the season. “He’s the best in his field and it’s great to see that his talent has been recognised in this way,” he said.

“Phil controls a lot of what happens at the club, in terms of training loads, game minutes, having an eye on these two months. It’s important to get to these two months with a squad that’s healthy and also in the right place and getting better. He’s been able to deliver that for the last number of seasons.”

During the Six Nations Morrow was also credited with overseeing the rapid recoveries of both Mako and Billy Vunipola from knee injuries while he has also been key to the significant improvements of the latter’s fitness over the last 18 months. Under his watch, George Kruis also returned from ankle surgery after less than a month on the sidelines during England’s autumn campaign.

Morrow, who will return to Saracens after the Lions tour, said: “I’m unbelievably honoured to be asked to join the Lions staff to tour New Zealand. I’d like to thank our director of rugby, Mark McCall, and chairman, Nigel Wray, for allowing me to take up this incredibly exciting opportunity.”

McCall, meanwhile, revealed that Kruis remains on track to make his comeback against Northampton on 16 April – three days before Gatland names his Lions squad – but is not in contention to face Harlequins at Wembley on Saturday. Saracens have thumped both Bath and Glasgow since the return of their international contingent following the Six Nations but head to Wembley in third place, a point behind second-placed Exeter.

“We’ve won our last eight play-off games which gives us some confidence – we just want to get into the play-offs to be honest,” added McCall. “If we have to go away from home, we’ve got a squad who don’t mind going away from home. Our record in play-off games in the last two and a half years is very good.”

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