Saracens face a make-or-break Champions Cup clash on Sunday – accompanied by the grim prospect of Premiership relegation.
But that is merely a sideshow as they appear increasingly resigned to losing their Premiership status unless their wage bill is cut by up to £2million to comply with salary-cap regulations for the current season.
Saracens players – including a host of England internationals – and staff were reportedly told on Friday morning the club would accept an additional 35-point deduction for operating above this season’s £7million salary cap limit.
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WATCH: Jim Hamilton sits down to discuss all the rugby news of the week, with particular focus on the Six Nations and Japanese league.
Saracens were docked 35 points and fined £5.36million in November for breaching Premiership salary cap regulations in each of the last three campaigns.
They are currently 18 points adrift at the Premiership basement with 14 league games left, so another sizeable deduction would effectively consign them to the drop.
In a statement issued to the PA news agency on Friday, Saracens’ interim chief executive Ed Griffiths said: “Discussions are continuing and nothing has been finalised, but our position remains the same.
As it stands…https://t.co/XuVDU94hlr
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 18, 2020
“It is clearly in the interests of the league and English rugby that this matter is dealt with as soon as possible, and we are prepared to do whatever is reasonably required to draw that line.”
On the pitch, Saracens are at full strength for their appointment with Racing as they look to secure the runners-up spot in Pool Four behind the French club.
If Saracens win, it would take an unlikely sequence of results elsewhere to deny them a last-eight spot and halt hopes of a successful European title defence.
As revealed by RugbyPass on Thursday night, an automatic drop to the second tier of English rugby is on cards for 2020/21 due to the London club’s inability to show they are operating under the £7million cap this season. pic.twitter.com/vgpuKVHYv9
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 17, 2020
They would be away from home in the quarter-finals, though, with Leinster or Exeter looming as possible opponents.
Gloucester could put a spanner in Saracens’ ambitions, but they need an away victory against four-time European champions Toulouse on Sunday to have any realistic hope of progressing.
Gloucester are without injured fly-half Danny Cipriani – Lloyd Evans deputises – but centre Mark Atkinson and flanker Jake Polledri return to action, and Scotland Six Nations squad member Alex Craig partners Franco Mostert in the second-row.
Toulouse have already qualified as Pool Five winners, collecting 22 points from a possible 25, which included beating Gloucester at Kingsholm in November.
“Our focus is solely on Toulouse,” Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann said.
“It’s going to be a big challenge. They were one of the favourites before the tournament started, and they haven’t disappointed.
“They’ve played well, they are unbeaten, they are a quality side. But we are not going there to make the numbers up. We are going there to see if we can get the win.
“The reality is that we can only control ourselves, our destiny and our performance. Our biggest focus this week has been getting our mental and physical preparation ready to give us a chance.”
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