'Our Lions players aren't going to be available for a good chunk'
Even after a season spent in the Championship, Saracens have been installed as favourites to win the Gallagher Premiership title. Having served their time for repeatedly breaching salary cap regulations, the fallen champions are back in the top flight after making light work of the second tier of English rugby.
Ealing Trailfinders, the Championship’s heavyweights, were swatted aside with ease in the two-leg play-off final and bookmakers fully expect Saracens to topple their Premiership rivals too. A glance through their squad explains why they are being positioned as favourites to seize the crown won by Harlequins in such dazzling style last season.
Despite the fallout from the salary cap crisis, they managed to retain their influential England contingent, with Mako and Billy Vunipola, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly agreeing to stay despite the prospect of a season outside the Premiership.
And they were equally successful at keeping the next tier of players, with Ben Earl, Max Malins, Nick Tompkins, Alex Goode, Alex Lozowski and Nick Isiekwe departing on loan but now back at the StoneX Stadium en masse. Earl and Malins, in particular, flourished during their time at Bristol, while veteran full-back Goode returns from a spell in Japan looking to continue posing the question of why Eddie Jones refuses to pick him for England.
Ivan van Zyl was viewed as "a candid and credible witness” at his RFU disciplinary hearing but the verdict didn't go the way of the new Saracens signing https://t.co/lXs9xOz5ZM
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 9, 2021
It is a formidable squad containing real depth in certain positions and their nearest rivals – Exeter, Bristol, Quins and Sale – know the dominant force in English rugby over the past decade mean business, especially as Saracens’ European adventure will be limited to a season in the weaker Challenge Cup. “We were in crisis mode around November 2019 and anything could have happened to the club. But the unity and togetherness helped get us through,” director of rugby Mark McCall said.
“We’ve got back into the Premiership with many of the same players who have stuck by us and showed faith in the club. The players relished the challenge of getting the club back up. I was especially thrilled with the way the international guys performed, showing real commitment and desire to carry on with Sarries.
“Time will tell if we can challenge this season. We are happy with the squad we have got for next season, the senior internationals stayed at the club, the loan players have had really successful years away from the club and they have come back better players than they were.
“We have had some young lads who have had more time than they would have had, so those three things are powerful. Our Lions players aren’t going to be available for a good chunk at the start and we know that’s going to be difficult to accommodate, but the proof will always be in the pudding.”
"There's stuff, loads of stuff – wouldn't you like to know what is in it?"
– It's been an intriguing first summer at Sale with Alex Sanderson at the helm of the Premiership title hopefulshttps://t.co/JlgvSUP7WO
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 11, 2021
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