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Saracens' likely salary cap casualties

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Who are the likely salary cap casualties if Saracens are forced to trim the fat?

Fresh off the back of England’s disappointment in the World Cup final in Yokohama last Saturday, the side’s Saracens contingent have been dealt the further blow of a £5.3m fine and 35-point Premiership deduction for salary cap infractions.

The investigation, which had been going on for the last seven months, found that Saracens failed to disclose payments to players in the 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons and that the club had exceeded the ceiling for payments to senior players during each of those three seasons.

The club has been docked 35 points, which will see them sitting bottom of the table if the punishment isn’t successfully appealed.

In addition to the points deduction – which puts the club, at worst, at risk of relegation, or into Challenge Cup for the 2020/21 season at best – the financial repercussions will have a considerable influence on player recruitment and retention this season.

To use some American sports parlance, Saracens are potentially going to have to make some cap casualties in order to stay compliant in the future.

(Continue reading below…)

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The investigation only found infractions during the past three seasons, but the club were still able to strengthen their squad this past summer with the additions of players such as Elliot Daly, Jack Singleton and Rhys Carre. It is reasonable to conclude, barring some significant retirements and/or restructured contracts, that the squad remains very close to the cap.

RugbyPass takes a look below at some of the players who may have to exit Allianz Park at the end of this season as the Gallagher Premiership club looks to balance the books and conform to the league’s salary cap requirements.

Joel Kpoku

The towering lock is one of the best academy prospects to come out of Saracens over the last ten years and he has already been heavily linked with a move to Northampton Saints next season. Not one of Saracens’ current high earners, Kpoku won’t provide much salary cap relief for the reigning Premiership champions, but his loss would be sorely felt moving forward.

Liam Williams

He is in the final year of his two-year contract with Saracens and not only is there interest in Wales for the talented full-back, Toulon are also believed to be chasing his signature. Having brought in Daly and boasting some more affordable young players in the back three such as Matt Gallagher and Rotimi Segun, Williams’ excellent spell with Saracens could come to a shorter-than-expected end.

Brad Barritt

One of the club’s most talismanic players, Barritt is also in the last year of his deal. RugbyPass understands that Saracens have extended a new contract offer to the centre, although it is on significantly reduced terms than his current deal. Whether that is as a result of the salary cap investigation or a decision made based upon the player’s age is unknown.

Alex Goode

Another of the club’s academy products, Goode has been the heartbeat of Saracens over the past decade. Like Williams, he’s in a contract year and the club have some talented players in the back three. If there is a position on the pitch where the club may feel more comfortable making cuts, it could be among the outside backs and full-backs, although it is unlikely they will say goodbye to Goode.

Michael Rhodes

He struggled with injuries last season after he got himself to within touching distance of the England team earlier in his contract. With the likes of Nick Isiekwe and Ben Earl locked up and academy duo Andy Christie and Sean Reffell progressing nicely, Rhodes is potentially a player who could find himself a more lucrative deal elsewhere.

Sean Maitland

RugbyPass understand that Maitland has been offered a contract extension and Saracens seem keen to lock down the former British and Irish Lions winger. With some flexibility in their back three and a number of options at full-back, ensuring they keep Maitland looks like one of the club’s more pressing priorities.

Max Malins

It is safe to assume Saracens will try and find the cap flexibility to extend Malins’ deal, given the impact he has been able to have in his opportunities so far. Again, his versatility could be useful for Saracens, especially if their squad size diminishes at all going into the 2020/21 season. That said, he will be coveted by other clubs in the Premiership.

Tom Woolstencroft

The former age-grade hooker has boosted his profile considerably since making the move to Saracens and with Jamie George regularly away with England, something which could also affect new signing Jack Singleton, keeping hold of Woolstencroft would be a wise move.

He won’t provide the savings that other players’ potential departures could, so he is a reasonable candidate to stay unless another club believes he can be a starting hooker for them and offers him a contract representative of that.

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Who are the likely salary cap casualties if Saracens are forced to trim the fat?