Newcastle boss Dean Richards has warned Saracens that their immediate return to the Gallagher Premiership is not a “foregone conclusion” ahead of this weekend’s start to the Championship season for the 2019 league and European champions.
Having been relegated last season for repeated breaches of the Premiership salary cap, Saracens will begin their second-tier campaign this Saturday away to Cornish Pirates.
Having guided Newcastle to promotion last year back to the Premiership, Falcons boss Richards believes Mark McCall’s won’t get everything their own way despite so many rugby fans taking it for granted that the Londoners will cruise to the title and will be back in the top flight for the 2021/22 season.
Richards said: “Saracens have played Ealing twice (in pre-season) and one of the surprises for them was just how competitive Ealing are and there are a couple of other teams in the Championship who could be as difficult.
“Jersey away is a tough game and Pirates away is never easy. You have to be on your mettle all the time and have to understand there are banana skins all over the place. I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion that Saracens will automatically come back up. Those losses to Ealing are the wake-up call they probably need and it is going to be an interesting Championship.”
'Some of the hotels, especially the one in Dublin, Jesus Christ, honestly like, it was something else. Like there was silverware at the tables'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 28, 2021
Richards, who is preparing his Newcastle side to take on Sale on Friday night in the Premiership, isn’t convinced either that the scope for Saracens to add a host of England internationals to a squad assembled to undertake the majority of their Championship fixtures featuring players used to that league is a post-Six Nations advantage.
“Unity in terms of continuity is important in a season and people disappearing and coming back doesn’t help,” he said. “In theory, Saracens will get the playoffs (to decide who goes up) and they will have everyone back by then.
“Logic will dictate those players will get back into the groove around that time in the season but the final will be hard, probably against Ealing. The Championship has changed during the two times I was there (he was also down there with Harlequins in 2005/06) but then the Premiership has changed a lot as well.
“The amount of overseas players now in the Premiership means the standard is improving significantly and the natural progression of players from the Championship into the Premiership doesn’t happen as often.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 14, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now