Social media would suggest that Saracens were just having a laugh in Bermuda last week during pre-season, but nothing could be further from the truth according to Chris Wyles.
There are videos doing the rounds of Mako Vunipola belly-flopping off a diving board, Alex Goode being clotheslined off a boat by a former WWE star and most of the squad trying to perfect a synchronised dive and pass routine into a pool.
But in between those admittedly amusing incidents, some hard work was done by the defending two-time European champions who surrendered their Aviva Premiership Rugby crown last season.
Their season starts at Twickenham on 2 September and two weeks later they will be running out at the Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia to take on Newcastle Falcons.
The match in Pennsylvania is part of a new four-year agreement with AEG – the world’s leading sports and live entertainment company – in conjunction with NBC Sports.
It means that rather than doing the five-hour coach drive from Allianz Park to Kingston Park, Wyles and his Saracens teammates will be boarding a flight across the pond to America’s east coast.
The match in Philadelphia is a homecoming for Wyles as the Saracens wing grew up about one and a half hours away in a place called Allentown, Pennsylvania and he still has friends nearby.
“One of the most memorable times visiting was with the USA Eagles national team. We played against Harlequins in a World Cup warm-up game in the same stadium as the one we are going to play in against Newcastle Falcons,” says Wyles.
“I actually didn’t play in the game but I will never forget it because the non-playing squad had to get up the next day and run up and down the steps from the Rocky film!”
Wyles admits the trip to Bermuda – which included a pre-season victory over a USA Islanders invitational team – was a fantastic bonding trip for all concerned.
“Bermuda is an absolutely beautiful island and after five tough weeks of pre-season it was great to be able to get away somewhere and freshen things up a bit – it was fantastic,” he said.
“We had a great game against some good opponents and it was also a way to spend time together as a squad.
“There were some pretty ridiculous moments out there as well and the clothesline on Alex Goode was one of them.
“We thought that he was going to take it lightly on Goodey but he caught him up on the neck. That all came on the back of an incredible boat trip.
“Actually thinking about it, Mako’s front flip belly-flop was the most ridiculous. I will never get tired of watching that!”
Saracens have become famous for their squad bonding trips that have taken them to far-flung places like Chicago, St Anton and – last season – Barcelona.
And Wyles insists they are absolutely vital to the Wolfpack team spirit that has seen them claim the last two European crowns, and finish in the top four of the Aviva Premiership for every single one of the last eight seasons.
“We always talk about being able to build closer relationships within the squad and this was also a great opportunity to come away and have a beer together,” he added.
“We may not get it 100 percent right all the time, but we are always pushing ourselves to explore further and build those bonds.
“It’s not always easy to do but every year we try and make ourselves tighter and tighter as a group.
“And that does come through in games, when you have shared those moments together you are willing to go further for each other.”
Tickets for Newcastle Falcons v Saracens are now on sale from premiershiprugbyusa.com.
Read more at www.premiershiprugby.com