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Saracens to talk to Jones/Gatland

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Saracens to hold crisis talks with Jones and Gatland as possible player exit strategy emerges

Saracens are to hold talks with Eddie Jones and Warren Gatland to discover what implications relegation to the Championship for breaching the Premiership salary cap will have for their high profile internationals, including Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Mako and Billy Vunipola.

With the 45-strong Saracens squad meeting individually on Monday and Tuesday with Mark McCall, the director of rugby, and interim chief executive Edward Griffiths, the ramifications of dropping down to the second division of English rugby needs to be established with Jones, the England head coach, and Gatland, who will be taking the British and Irish Lions to South Africa in 2021.

If both men insist the twelve internationals Saracens expect to be involved in next month’s Six Nations have to be playing at the highest possible level then that will shape the discussions over their immediate futures.

What has become clear is that the current “Galacticos” squad will not be reunited in 18 months’ time when Saracens return to the Premiership as cuts to the wage bill to satisfy the salary cap will need to be in place.

Patently, with Saracens having broken the £7million cap for the last four seasons – including this one – they cannot bring back the same big stars. McCall will have responsibility for shaping next season’s squad and the one that will be needed on the club’s return to the top flight in 2020/21.

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RugbyPass understands the meetings with McCall and Griffiths will be to establish what each player wants to do having been informed on Friday that another 35-point deduction would effectively relegate the club. The players were told to prepare for this scenario, although talks about exactly what happens next are still ongoing between Saracens and Premier Rugby.

Saracens look certain to operate with a younger squad in the Championship, with a spine of experienced players that will be supplemented the following season by those big-name players who opt to try and arrange the kind of loan deal that has seen England flanker Mark Wilson join Sale this season from Newcastle before returning to the Falcons next season.

Saracens’ decision to work on the basis they are already down is to allow their players to negotiate with other Premiership clubs before the end of January when next season’s squads will have largely been sorted out.

Leading players could opt for a season in the Championship if Jones and Gatland agree it will not harm their international chances with lower profile matches ensuring they are not tired at the end of the season – unlike their Premiership colleagues.

Griffiths told RugyPass: “Mark will make the decisions over the squad and if we were to be playing in the Championship we need to pick a squad that will benefit from playing there.

“In 20/21 you would want to put a squad together that is unequivocally compliant with the salary and is also as competitive as possible. Every squad moves on in a two-year period and I’m sure that will be the case with Saracens.

“I was asked back having been away five years to provide some assistance and I know a lot of people at the club. These are not ideal circumstances but I’m trying to help.”

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Saracens to hold crisis talks with Jones and Gatland as possible player exit strategy emerges
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