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'Business as normal': Saracens' Mark McCall back at work after break

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

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Mark McCall had returned to work as the Saracens director of rugby just over a month after it was revealed on January 28 by the Gallagher Premiership club that he was to take a break from his role for medical reasons. The statement issued by the Londoners at the time didn’t specify how long they would be without their long-serving boss but he surprisingly turned up straight from the training ground on Tuesday to take questions at their weekly online media briefing. 

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“I kind of drifted in last week when the players had a week off,” explained McCall, who has been in charge at Saracens since midway through their breakthrough title-winning season of 2010/11. “We had a down week last week and it felt like a good week to come back in and get up to date with things and get my feet under the table. 

“It’s business as normal this week. I just missed the people here, the atmosphere that is associated with the coaches’ room. Everything really. It has obviously been a big part of my life for the last twelve years or so and, of course, you are going to miss it when you are not here. I am grateful to be back in again.”

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It was 32 days ago when a shock Saracens statement read: “For medical reasons, Mark McCall will be taking a short break from being director of rugby at Saracens. People will always come first at our club and Mark will be given all of the support and time he needs.

“Meanwhile, we would ask that everyone respects Mark’s privacy. Mark is obviously more than confident in the coaching team he has worked with for many years to temporarily take the reins.”

In the absence of McCall, head coach Joe Shaw led the team through a period where they won two and lost two of their four Premiership games and the return of their director of rugby now coincides with next Saturday’s massive match in London as second-place Saracens host leaders Leicester. McCall admitted he was proud but unsurprised that the club got along fine during his mid-season absence.

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“We have got a great staff here, a staff who have been together for a very long period of time. We know each other inside out, we know what works at the club well. It’s not really a surprise that it probably worked even better without me. It was a really positive month for us. The result against London Irish wasn’t quite what we wanted, but overall it has been a positive month.  

“I had the whole month of February off and I probably missed them more than they missed me… I kind of left them to it. I obviously talked to everyone from time to time but the last thing you want is someone interfering who is not in here day-to-day. Phil Morrow and Joe Shaw, in particular, did a great job,” said McCall, who also paid tribute to the numerous well-wishers from across the rugby world who were in touch during his layoff.  

“It does say a lot about the sport we are involved in when people from all over the place reach out as they did. I have been blown away by the rugby community and the support and messages I received from all over the place. That was really reassuring but I am back now and looking forward to getting stuck in again.”

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