McCall identifies what has made him most proud of Saracens these past 20 months
Mark McCall has pinpointed what has made him most proud as Saracens finally see the light at the end of the crisis that resulted in their automatic relegation from the Gallagher Premiership for repeated breaches of the salary cap.
Saracens suffered an initial points deduction in November 2019 before their relegation was confirmed two months later and what has since followed has been an extraordinary waiting game, their pandemic delayed Championship season only getting started in March with the two-legged promotion final versus Ealing finally set to be played on successive June Sundays.
The relegated Londoners go into that decider with five 2021 Lions picks in their squad along with multiple other internationals as the crisis didn’t precipitate a mass exodus from the club and that loyalty is now just 160 minutes from getting richly rewarded by promotion if they get the better of the Trailfinders.
Asked by RugbyPass about this enduring loyalty at his media briefing ahead of the first leg, Saracens boss McCall said: “When the relegation was confirmed in January 2020 anything could have happened, people could have left, people had an excuse to go. The truth is most people that we wanted to stay stayed.
“There is a few people who were going to go anyway, the likes of George Kruis, Will Skelton and Liam Williams. We knew they were going regardless. There were a few players we felt couldn’t afford to be in the Championship for a year like Max Malins, Ben Earl, Nick Isiekwe, Alex Lozowski and Nick Tompkins, all of those players went on loan but they all signed extensions to stay at the club.
'It was a shock to us with how the refereeing is a bit different, no TMO, a lot of players are niggly and trying to get in your head'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 6, 2021
“The senior international players that we had could have left but they all stayed. To single them out, they came back from a tough Six Nations with England, they had Lions selection looming, the Championship probably wasn’t the most attractive option for them to be playing in but every single one of them has just come back and rolled their sleeves up, got in amongst the squad and been phenomenal.
“And I think they have really enjoyed it as well. That level of care about the club is an easy thing to say but it gets properly tested when something like what happened to us happened. Looking back over the last 20-month period, that is what makes me most proud.
“What we thought we were we ended up being and what we thought was real in terms of the friendships and the relationships and the affection for the club was true. I’m delighted to be in the position that we are but we have got a big two weeks to get the job done.
“In lots of ways I’m not surprised,” he added. “People often talk about how much you learn about your organisation when there is a setback, but this wasn’t a setback it was something way worse than that so it has been a proper test. As a club, as a group of players and staff I think we have passed that test.”
ICYMI: Will Skelton was excellent when speaking to RugbyPass recently on:
Life at @staderochelais
Sourcing size 19 boots ?
Tackle height & 'big boys' having no excuse'
His life-long battle with diet ???
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 18, 2021
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