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Mark McCall admits Saracens to rotate players to topple Leinster in Champions Cup

Jack Conan of Leinster holds back Billy Vunipola of Saracens. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Saracens head coach Mark McCall is thankful an independent disciplinary committee have not ended the club’s efforts to defend their Heineken Champions Cup title this season.

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Last Friday, the Gallagher Premiership side were fined 50,000 euros (£42,500) – half of which is suspended – for fielding an ineligible player in their January win over Racing 92, but crucially not deducted any points which would have resulted in them exiting the competition.

Prop Titi Lamositele played in the victory, which clinched a quarter-final spot, despite the American international’s work permit expiring on the day before the match.

Committee chairman Roger Morris explained in a statement last week “this was an unfortunate sequence of events brought about by an administrative oversight” and Sarries will hope to put this latest controversial chapter behind them.

McCall said: “Titi has been at the club since he was 18 and has played however many games for Saracens so there was a difference between this case and other ineligible player cases in Europe.

“And thankfully I think the committee agreed with that and thought the fine was what was appropriate.

“What was good about qualifying this year in Europe is we’ve used a lot more players than we have done in the past because we were targeting the Premiership until the relegation was confirmed.

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“I think we’ve used 42 or 43 players in Europe and that quarter-final was hard-earned and earned by the whole squad, in particular in the last two matches when we went down to 14 men in both and managed to win both, which was a great achievement.

“It (the quarter-final) is something in seven or eight weeks time to look forward to.”

Saracens found out they would still face Leinster in April for a spot in the last four while playing Sale in the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-finals last Friday when the verdict of the independent disciplinary committee’s meeting in London was revealed.

Many wondered if the Champions Cup holders would be thrown out of the tournament, given back in the 2012-13 Challenge Cup Grenoble were deducted four points for fielding an ineligible player against London Welsh.

On that occasion Lotu Taukeiaho played for the French outfit even though he was not registered as a tournament squad member.

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“Everyone knows Titi has been part of the club for a long time and played in five pool matches as well,” McCall added.

“In other cases the player wasn’t even in the European Cup squad. Titi was in our European Cup squad. It is just one of those things.”

With Saracens still in the Champions Cup, the focus at Allianz Park has turned to defending their crown with relegation from the Premiership confirmed at the end of the season for repeated salary cap breaches.

Head coach McCall admitted “a little bit” of planning has started over how best to use the squad during the six league games between now and the April 4 clash at last season’s beaten finalists Leinster.

“We have a week off in between after these first four Premiership matches so with some players, they won’t play all six of those games,” he said.

“They will play a good percentage of them, but not all six. We will try to rotate the squad and drill this period down to keep everybody busy.”

After losing at Sale last weekend in the Premiership Rugby Cup, Sarries will welcome Steve Diamond’s team to Allianz Park in the league on Saturday.

McCall revealed the younger members who impressed in the defeat could feature in the second meeting in quick succession between the sides.

He added: “We’ve got 10 playing international rugby and a few people injured as well, so we’ll have a different team.

“But some of the lads that played on Friday night will get the chance to play again and against a team who are really on top of their game at the moment and one of the form teams in the Premiership.”

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Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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J
Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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