There's only one thing worse than a Bust: A Bust that goes to another club and performs the way he did before arriving at Sarries. The king of the boom-bust-boom cycle has to be the French international captain who went on to achieve big things. Elsewhere.
Name: Raphael Ibanez
International Caps: 98, France
Joined from: Castres Olympique
Time at Sarries: 2003 to 2005
Famous for: Those 98 caps (he was on 63 when he joined Sarries and still on 63 when he left), being a revered captain of his country and winning a ton of silverware; all of it down the road at Wasps.
Hype: Joining in the wake of the 2003 World Cup, Sarries were very positive about what type of player they had purchased. "I'm very impressed with the quality of the man," said Mark Sinderberry, then Chief Executive. "We'll be looking at him for the second half of the season, post the World Cup. He has a great amount of experience and is very hungry for success with the club, and as well as his obvious rugby skills he's a fantastic leader. He's excited about joining up, and we're very excited to have him."
Reality: Plucked from under the noses of Gloucester who couldn’t match Sarries’ monetary offer, he was also advised by somewhat more successful French Saracens Abdel Benazzi and Thomas Castaignede and chose not to go to Kingsholm. Most Sarries fans wish he had gone west instead of going AWOL at Vicarage Road as the leadership and hunger for success were notably absent during his two-year stay.
Most memorable Sarries moment: Can’t think of any as he was way below the standard he showed before and after his stint here.
What happened next: A disagreement with another fiery front rower - head coach Steve Diamond – and the signing of Shane Byrne saw him released from his final year of his contract and the rest, as we all know, is history. Although the mystery remains as to why he didn’t fire here. Today Ibanez is an ERC ambassador and has returned to Vicarage Road on occasion to co-commentate on French teams’ matches against his old club. We doubt he was made very welcome.
Never understood, great signing on paper, but sadly rugby is still played on other surfaces! I never got the impression he wanted to be there, and perhaps we were just unfortunate to sign him during a mid-career trough.
Of the ones listed so far, probably the biggest disappointment.
His statement that 'if we don't qualify fir the HC then I'm off' irritated beyond belief, given that he was just about the most senior player in the squad.
I thought he got a raw deal as he rarely got to play two or three games in a row. He didn't get much of a chance to play himself in. What's more Matt Cairns was the crowd's favourite and was forgiven almost anything, yet to my mind at least, was playing very well either. Can't imagine why Ibanez looked like he wasn't enjoying himself.
It rather begs the question, why did a world-class player suffer such a loss of form at Saracens, but then rediscover his form after leaving?
It can't be a coincidence that so many top-quality players underperformed at Saracens, during that period of their history. It suggests that there was something wrong with the management and structure, at that time.
My take on it is a quite simplistic one. He was in the comfort zone at Sarries, earning good money based on past glories. Once we booted him out he realised that he was in the last chance saloon and bucked his ideas up about a thousand fold. Great news for Wasps, terrible for us!
Fortunately truely unprincipled people like him are few and far between.
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