Mark McCall believes pre-season losses to Ealing in the Trailfinders Cup have ensured his Saracens players are under no illusions about the Championship task they will face to take the former English and European champions back into the Gallagher Premiership at this first attempt. 

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Automatically relegated to the Championship after being found guilty of repeated salary cap breaches, Saracens start their second-tier campaign at Cornish Pirates this Saturday.

McCall, the London club’s highly successful director of rugby, has been using players who have experienced life in the second division of English rugby to explain to others in his squad exactly what challenges they will face over the next ten games to earn a place in the promotion playoffs,

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Unable to call upon his England players until after the Guinness Six Nations, McCall said: “We played our last meaningful match back in October so it has been a while since then and while we have played five friendly matches, everyone has been waiting for the Championship to start. 

“The friendlies have been a big learning curve for us in terms of what the Championship is like and how well-coached the teams are and how proud they are. We have lost two of the five games and have experienced to a large degree what it is like.

“It’s useful for us to have players who have played there before. Alex Day, Will Hooley and Alex Lewington gave a presentation to the squad about their experiences in the Championship and what we could expect. It was a brilliant presentation and Alex Lewington was a part of a team that had been relegated [London Irish] and what that felt like for him. I’m glad that on top of that we have had the experiences of the five games and seeing first-hand how tough it is going to be.”

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Saracens most recent financial accounts made it clear the club must regain Premiership status to ensure their economic survival even though owner Nigel Wray has confirmed he is willing to continue spending millions on the club. McCall added: “It is very important to get back up and we have ten games to try and get into the top two. If we do that then there will be a two-legged playoff final. For now, it is just good to be playing again.”

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