Things don’t get much better than achieving a major milestone, scoring a try, and helping your team win an important game.
For Chris Wyles, Saturday was just such a day, as he started at left wing for Saracens in his 100th game for the club, scored, and helped them beat Racing Metro to move to 2-0 in their pool in Heineken Cup action.
For Wyles, who is also looking ahead to the November USA tour of Wales and Romania, where he is expected to start at fullback and potentially be the main goalkicker, the weekend was the culmination of a journey that started six years ago.
It was then that Wyles rejected an offer to play for England A to try his hand with the USA 7s team. By the end of 2007 he was the USA 15s team fullback, and on his way to being the USA 7s team captain. His performances for the 7s team and at the 2007 World Cup ultimately got him a look with Saracens that has lasted five season.
“It’s been a long journey for me,” said Wyles, whose parents are English but who was born in Connecticut. “It’s been something that I’ve had my eye on for a while and quite a big milestone for me personally. It was a great game, good for us to win and also for me personally as well getting a try and my 100th appearance was special.”
For the try, hooker Schalk Brits sold a beautiful dummy to break through the Racing Metro line, and “I took a decent line off him and managed to run it in under the posts.”
“Decent,” as in there was no room but he found a spot anyway, and “managed” as in rounded the defense brilliantly and had a lot of work to do to make the conversion easy.
Saracens club Chairman, Nigel Wray, presented Wyles with his blazer for making 100 games in the locker room after the game.
“I really enjoyed that, it was a special moment for me,” Wyles told RUGBYMag.com. “Not many people make 100 games for their club. Certainly at Saracens over the five years I’ve been with them I have had a lot of competition with some great players, so it’s never been easy to get playing time.”
These days, Wyles is a regular at wing, fullback, or outside center. But he never feels like he’s an automatic pick.
“I think the coaches do a good job of never making you feel completely comfortable,” said Wyles. “With the squad we have there’s always competition for places every week. I think this is the most competitive squad we’ve had.”
That competition is good, said the USA star.
“We’ve got real depth and I think that’s what you need to compete in the Heineken Cup and the Premiership, which is what we want to do. We’ve won our first two games in Heineken Cup and we’re third in the league, so we’ve started well.”
Wyles is bringing all sorts of confidence into November’s USA assembly, and he expects other returning players to do the same.
“We’ve got a group of senior players who have a role to play I think in terms of guidance for younger and new players – setting the bar,” he said. “You kind of have to be a role model.”
And part of that role model is setting expectations, and Wyles is adamant that the expectations should be high.
“I think these are three very good test matches for us,” said Wyles. “We’ve got an entire November test window of Tier II games, all test matches, which is great for us. And I think personally we need to come away with a positive win record out of them. We have to start expecting within ourselves and in our squad that we need to come away with victories in these games.”
That’s the message Wyles and the other veterans want to send, he said.
“As a squad we need to have the confidence and expectation that we can win these games.”
Video highlights of the Saracens v Racing Metro game.