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Former Sarries star Gill looking forward to welcome old friends to a packed-CAP

13th December 2018

Tom Shanklin, Craig Quinnell, Gavin Henson are amongst the Welsh internationals who have pulled on the shirts of both Cardiff Blues and Saracens over the years.

Rhys Gill - a product of Wales’ Capital Region’s pathway - was another who spent a considerable portion of his career at the London-based club.

Having basked in both domestic and European glory at Allianz Park, the seven-times capped prop returned to his home region in 2016, having amassed almost 150 appearances for ‘Sarries’ during his seven-year stay at the club.

He joins esteemed names in the ‘100 Club’ - the likes of Steve Borthwick, Richard Hill, Glen Jackson and Schalk Brits, as well as current stars such as Owen Farrell and Jamie George - and remains a favourite amongst the Saracens faithful.

Last week’s Heineken Champions Cup encounter marked Gill’s first time returning to Allianz Park as an opposition player, and the visit sparked some nostalgic memories for the prop.

“It was great to go back to the Allianz last week and seeing a lot of the old faces. I still miss some of those boys because I spent a large chunk of my career down at Sarries,” said Gill.

“When the draw was made, I was absolutely ecstatic. I had a lot of texts from the boys saying they were looking forward for a trip down to Cardiff, so I think I’ll have to show them the ropes.

“There were plenty of chats and messing around with the boys during the game, with them getting stuck into me, but it was all in good fun and good spirits.

“It was a bit weird going into the away changing room last week! It’s a bit of a mess in there, but the home ones are very nice, as you can imagine.”

Gill was named the Saracens Player of the Year during the 2011/12 campaign - the same season that a certain Owen Farrell would be named the English Premiership’s Young Player of the Year.

With British and Irish Lions stars such as Farrell, Jamie George and Maro Itoje having graduated from the Saracens academy, and Gill was present to see these players develop into global superstars.

The loosehead prop sees a similarity between the pathway success at his former and current sides.

Gill said: “When you’re at a club like Saracens, you always have talented boys coming through. But it’s a different ball game to be able to make enough of a mark to play in that team week-in, week-out and that’s brilliant for boys like Maro Itoje, who has been fantastic. 

“It can be difficult for some of the academy boys at Saracens to get exposure, but here at Cardiff Blues we haven’t got as big a squad.

“Boys here will have an opportunity to step up and they’ve done a good job when asked to do that.

“I thought Harri Millard was excellent over the weekend, and the likes of Dillon Lewis and Jarrod Evans have also come through the academy.

“You look at boys who have progressed over the last couple of years and now they’ve become international standard.”

There is no doubt that Saracens will still hold a special place in Gill’s heart, with the prop delighted to be able to welcome his former side to a packed Cardiff Arms Park.

Reflecting on his time in London, the Welsh international says there is an unique team philosophy at Allianz Park
“The Wolfpack mentality is something they’ve adopted throughout the club at Saracens, which means that everyone looks out for each other and cares about each other.

“In every small little detail you want to go the extra mile for those boys that sit next to you in the changing rooms.

“The idea comes from a pack of wolves, and how they always hunt together, and the defensive identity at Saracens in particular comes from that philosophies.

“It made you a better player and a better team, so there was obviously a lot of internationals around the Sarries squad, and sometimes training during the week would be tougher than the games on the Saturday.

“You’d go home on a Tuesday after training and wouldn’t be able to walk.

“My fondest memories from my time at Saracens were the trips away. Every two to three months we’d go away as a group and went to some amazing places.

“There were skiing trips, a trip to Miami for example and they were all unbelievable trip.

“Schalk Brits without doubt was the most talented player I played alongside. He could do everything.

“He could do foot-work sessions with the backs, and beat them with side-steps, he’d go into the gym and match the forwards with weights and speed testing he’d be up there with the wingers.

“He’s an actual freak. He was an unbelievable athlete and sportsman, and could turn his hand at any sport, like cricket of golf, and be the best.”

A very limited amount of tickets remain for Saturday's huge Heineken Champions Cup clash against Saracens at Cardiff Arms Park. Snap up yours NOW to avoid disappointment!