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McCall feeling positive despite controversy

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'If the table was different we would be third with 13 points'

By PA Authors
By Online Editors

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall maintains there is a “good buzz in the group” as they continue their battle for Gallagher Premiership survival at Bath on Friday.

The defending champions head to the Recreation Ground having accepted a 35-point deduction and £5.36m fine for breaching salary cap regulations.

Despite returning to domestic action 26 points adrift of safety, and to a venue where they last won in 2016, McCall insists no-one is sitting around feeling sorry for themselves.

Sarries will be bolstered by the availability of a full England contingent.

Having sat out the 44-3 Heineken Champions Cup victory over the Ospreys, national team captain Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola have all been named in the starting XV.

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“Bath’s last couple of performances at the Rec have been good. They beat Northampton in their last game and played well against Ulster in a close game,” McCall said.

“It will be a tough place for us to go, but there’s a good buzz in the group.”

McCall feels there are plenty of reasons to be positive for the challenges ahead.

“On the field this year has gone really well,” he said.

“If the table was different we would be third with 13 points from the four games with a bucket load of players who couldn’t play because they were at the World Cup or senior players like Brad Barritt, Alex Goode and Michael Rhodes who were all injured.

“For us to win three out of four, and two away wins with that young side at Welford Road and Kingsholm, was fantastic. There are a lot of people who have been forced in there because of the injuries, like young Manu Vunipola.

“The seven weeks have gone really well and a lot of them know we are going to rotate extensively, so they are going to get perhaps more playing opportunities than they would have otherwise got.”

Bath will be out to produce a response following successive European defeats, beaten at Harlequins having been just edged out by Ulster.

England winger Anthony Watson is expected to be out until the end of the year because of a knee injury picked up against Quins.

Club captain Charlie Ewels, though, suffered more severe torn ligament damage during the game at Twickenham Stoop, and he could yet need surgery.

Levi Davis has now rejoined the group after his stint on ‘The X Factor: Celebrity’ came to an end.

Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper feels everyone will be fully focused on the job in hand, with Francois Louw set to lead the team out.

“Anything that is going on around the game, different motivations, whatever, will be irrelevant to those on the field,” Hooper said at a press conference.

“As a player, you have a huge focus on the moment in front of you and your ability to win that moment.

“Saracens will be doing that to us and we will be trying to do that to them.”

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'If the table was different we would be third with 13 points'