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The Saracens verdict on how the Simpson loan deal is working out

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Mark McCall has lauded the impact ex-England international Joe Simpson is making during his short stay at Saracens on their return to the Gallagher Premiership. It was September 13, in the wake of the September 9 suspension handed down to new signing Ivan van Zyl, that the Londoners announced they had secured the services of the 33-year-old for a month to help get their season going. 


Simpson so far has come off the bench in the opening night win over Bristol and having started in last weekend’s bye round friendly win over Ealing, this Saturday’s game at Leicester will be the last game before South African van Zyl is free to play again. 

“We are so fortunate to find someone as experienced as Joe to fill that short-term gap with Ivan getting a ban so that was great,” enthused McCall when asked for his verdict on Simpson, the scrum-half who won his one and only England cap as a sub at the 2011 World Cup. 

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“But also he has just fitted in brilliantly. He knew quite a few of our players. He had played with Billy (Vunipola) and Alex Lozowski when they were at Wasps together, but he has been brilliant. 

“We played an A-team game against Ealing last Friday night and Joe played in that. He had a great influence on the younger players in that group so we have been really pleased with him.”

The reason why Saracens sought out Simpson on a short-term deal from Gloucester was that van Zyl, the ex-Springboks half-back, was red-carded in a pre-season match away to Ulster for tackling the airborne Craig Gilroy. At the resulting disciplinary hearing, van Zyl accepted the charge and was given a four-match suspension. McCall wouldn’t be drawn on whether the length of the suspension was warranted. “It is what it is and he will be available to play after this weekend.”


However, in the full judgment published after the hearing, it emerged that while the RFU agreed the offence “was not grossly negligent, it was sufficiently serious to warrant a mid-range entry point”. This was in contrast to the Saracens view where a submission in support of van Zyl said the offence should be assessed at the low end of the scale of seriousness. 


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