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McCall refuses to comment on Bulls fans’ treatment of Owen Farrell

By PA
Saracens' Owen Farrell (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall refused to comment on Bulls fans booing visiting captain Owen Farrell when he was kicking at goal in his side’s Champions Cup defeat.

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Farrell has been frequently booed by opposition fans in recent weeks, especially during the Rugby World Cup with England, and announced a break from international rugby for his mental well-being which will rule him out of the Six Nations.

This was his first game since that announcement and the South African fans booed Farrell after a missed drop goal and when lining up a conversion towards the end of the game.

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Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White previews his team’s Round One Champions Cup encounter with Saracens

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Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White previews his team’s Round One Champions Cup encounter with Saracens

But McCall said after the 27-16 loss: “I have nothing to say about that.”

Saracens denied the home favourites a bonus point in what could be crucial in the group, despite playing more than half the game with 14 men.

Billy Vunipola was sent off for contact to the head when clearing out a ruck, while full-back Alex Goode and second row Maro Itoje both saw yellow, meaning Saracens were unable to grab a losing bonus point themselves.

Saracens will be looking to bounce back when they entertain Connacht next week after the Irish side were well beaten by table toppers Bordeaux.

McCall admitted his side had been up against it at altitude in Pretoria, with the red and yellow cards costing them.

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“I think the discipline comes from pressure,” he said. “We were under a lot of pressure, we were second best physically in the first half, our breakdown and our defensive collisions were nowhere near where they needed to be.

“The scoreline was 20-6 at half-time and I think that reflected the half, but the team showed some grit in the second half to fight back when we were down to 14 men.

“It is a wonderful place to play, an iconic place to play, and we are pleased to have come here but we would have liked to have played a lot better than we did tonight.

“We’ve got a really important game next weekend, this competition is unforgiving – you’ve only got four games and we’ve lost the first one. We’ve got zero points and next week is really important.

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“When you are losing collisions and under pressure then sometimes that lack of discipline happens.

“I thought Alex Goode was unlucky to be honest, I didn’t agree with that decision, Billy was trying to be urgent and clear out from a line-out and got it wrong. These things happen sometimes.

“I’m pleased we fought back hard in the second half but disappointed with the first half.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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