Amid the production line of elite talent on the books at the StoneX Stadium, one might be forgiven for overlooking Tim Swinson as one of Saracens ' most valuable players.
The former 38-cap Scotland international retired from rugby after leaving Glasgow Warriors in May 2020, but he completed a U-turn the following week after agreeing to join Mark McCall's side.
Saracens were at the time preparing to compete in the RFU Championship, having been relegated from the first tier of English rugby following numerous salary cap breaches over the course of several seasons.
But what started out as a short-term solution has flourished into a rebirth for 34-year-old Swinson, whom McCall now considers to be one of the best signings he's made in modern times.
“Tim has been remarkable. He actually had retired when we asked him to come out of retirement to help us in the Championship year. We thought our younger players needed a wise old head like him," praised McCall.
“He was voted our players’ player of the year at the end of the Championship year, which is an achievement that all the players want because you are voted by the players and he won it by a landslide. And he has continued that form this year.
“He does all the things that people don’t see. A great mauler, great maul defender, brilliant scrummager. You know what you are getting from Tim all of the time. He is one of those players you can count on all the time and he is a hugely popular member of the squad. In lots of ways one of our best signings over the last couple of years.”
Swinson was named man of the match in Saracens' first-leg win over Ealing Trailfinders in last season's Championship final, and that momentum has carried into the club's Premiership comeback.
The London club announced in August their second-row stalwart had agreed a one-year extension at the StoneX Stadium, with the lock's levels surprising many despite being one of the older dressing-room figures.
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Swinson has been ever-present once again for Sarries so far this season and started each of their first four games upon returning to the Premiership.
His performances have been particularly welcome given Maro Itoje 's minimal involvement since he returned from the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa this past summer.
Saracens were relieved a recent scan of Itoje's shoulder revealed no long-lasting damage, leaving him free to start Sunday's Premiership clash at home to Wasps.
That change has seen Swinson drop out of McCall's XV for the first time this season as he settles for a place on the bench, a well-deserved breather as he continues to underline his importance to the club's cause.
And the London native is sure to provide some key cover at times this season, starting with the upcoming autumn schedule when numerous Saracens stars will be away on international duty.
McCall deserves some of the credit himself for being swift to spot Swinson's value following his retirement, a decision fans now know would have been wasteful had he followed through and hung up his boots for good.
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