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Lost Opportunities

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Brendan
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Post by No 7&1/2 Mon 28 Sep 2020, 9:39 am

Saw some interesting comments from the Saracens group via the BBC:

Saracens' director of rugby Mark McCall says that the Champions Cup semi-final defeat by Racing 92 marks the "end of an era" for his team.
McCall's men will play in the second-tier Championship next season after a 105-point deduction for salary-cap breaches condemned them to relegation.
Saracens have won three of the last four Champions Cup finals and four of the past five Premiership titles.
"This has been an incredible period for us," said McCall.
"This was our 23rd knockout game in either Europe or the Premiership and we've won 19 of those games, which is an incredible record.
"We put our heart and soul into that game and we can be proud of the players. They are a special group."
Their hopes of adding to the trophy collection this season were ended after Racing 92 scored a 75th-minute try in Paris to snatch a 19-15 victory.
Exeter beat Toulouse to make landmark final
"In many ways it is the end of an era," McCall added.
"But we showed all the qualities and characteristics we need on a new journey."
A number of high-profile players have left Saracens in the wake of their punishment being announced with Liam Williams, George Kruis, Ben Spencer and Will Skelton departing on permanent deals. Captain Brad Barritt and scrum-half Richard Wiggleworth, 34 and 37 respectively, will also leave at the end of the season.
While high-profile England internationals like Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Jamie George and Elliot Daly have committed their futures to the club, some may follow the likes of Ben Earl, Max Malins, Alex Lozowski and Nick Isiekwe in agreeing loan deals elsewhere.

George started all three Tests on the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017 and will have aspirations to do similar when they tour South Africa next summer
Hooker George admitted he was unsure what the future had in store for Saracens with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic meaning no date has been set for the start of the Championship season.
"The element of the unknown is pretty horrendous," he said.
"A lot of people have talked rubbish about us for a long time. But if you look at the squad here probably our best player was [23-year-old academy graduate] Dom Morris.
"If you're telling me we're breaking the salary cap that's an interesting one.
"I don't know what we're going to be facing, but the young players coming through are hugely motivated and that is the exciting thing for me."


You could almost feel sorry for them. The underlying threads of truth in how well they come together as a group, the strength of their academy and how their systems can improve the mediocre to good and the good to great. As well as the production line of talent in players they've also churned out some very fine coaches who are tending to get international recognition as well.

They've also got a lot of friends in the media who are quick to point out how fantastically they look after their players in comparison to others. That list includes guys like Jim Hamilton, who was inside the bubble and benefitted but also guys who played for rival clubs. The whole ethos of the club seemed pretty perfect echoing some pretty great sports teams around the world (perhaps bar the number of fans in the stadium). McCall has clearly continued to learn over the years taking them from a stodgy team to one with an immense pack who could all play and then fireworks in the backs (even led by Farrell who some would claim can't lead an attack).

So many positives and even when caught it's easy to see the view that they're hard done to and almost root for them in their battle to get back to the top using the next phase of their youth team. Then I mull over those quotes. McCall, patting himself on the back for a set of results achieved through cheating. George moaning about people speaking rubbish; presumably about them pointing out Saracens have been cheating for years even got caught and got out of it through threats. No contrition, no resolve to move on and do things the right way. It sticks in the throat a bit.

It is a bit galling that their fans got to experience the fantastic run and get to keep the silverware. They didn't do anything wrong of course and past Saracens fans on this board would tell you they shouldn't have to suffer for the clubs decision makers but how many fans from other clubs have suffered or at least not got to celebrate those moments which may well have come to their own clubs. How many teams would have benefitted from players Saracens couldn't afford whether it be Wasps and Vunipola or whether in a fantasy rugby style it was a Leicester who signed guys like Skelton/Itoje/whoever.

I'm sure in the future I'll be sat enjoying the rugby they play but it'll take a while for the stink to go away.

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Post by Brendan Mon 28 Sep 2020, 12:50 pm

Not sure how it's the end of and era but more the pause.

Unless something happens in two years time they will be in the top three favourites for the premiership.  They would also be most likely favourite for the Challange Cup.

The following year they will be back in the Champions Cup and possibly be the premiership winners.

Unless McCall knows something we don't he will still be head coach and the team they have now will be a simillar to the team that has the second best record in the Premiership and their Europe journey was built on the back of the future team.

As long as McCall stays there can't see it being the end.

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Post by LondonTiger Mon 28 Sep 2020, 1:36 pm

I sat watching the semi final wondering if that is the kind of squad Saracens would have been putting out if they had not been cheating the salary cap.

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Post by Hazel Sapling Mon 28 Sep 2020, 2:40 pm

Sarries would have probably been a few things done differently if the salary cap was obeyed. Several players like Skelton, Lamitsele and Daly or L Williams probably wouldn't have been retained for as long as they were or signed at all.

The thing about Sarries is the guys like Vunipolas, George, Itoje, Kruis, Isiekwe, Fraser, Wray, Spencer, Farrell, Tompkins and Goode all either came through the academy or kicked on at the club. The next generation of that are players like Earl, Kpoku x 2, Singleton and Malins. Even Earle is a decent player who did not kick on enough for Sarries due to injury. The core of the Sarries squad are academy or arrived early in their careers and became stars after arriving. Maybe they wouldn't have retained all of them but they would have kept the vast majority.

It will be interesting to see how they operate in future though they have a great reputation for looking after their players and I don't think they will struggle to attract players if they want someone in particular.

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Post by Irish Londoner Mon 28 Sep 2020, 4:33 pm

I used to live in Saracens "catchment" and credit where it's due they did a lot for the local clubs and community, and equally even without cheating they would still have done very well in the Premiership and in Europe.
You are right though that this will stick to them for a long time, rather like bloodgate has for Harlequins, it doesn't matter how their apologist dress it up, they have cheated on a long term and consistent basis and deserve what's happened to them.
As you've listed they brought through some great players from their own academy or from wise investment in youngsters which makes the financial doping all the worse - they didn't need to do it, they'd might have lost a couple of Premierships or HECs but they would still be a top 3 English and European side - was it worth ruining your reputation for a couple more shiny baubles?
I think more than anything what gets to me is that everyone at the club feigns total ignorance about it, did it really never cross McCall's mind to wonder how Saracens kept and added to their squads inside the cap, or it never occurred to Brad Barritt or one of the other players - "Well I know how much I'm on, and Billy, Owen, Maro, Shalk, etc. are on at least the same. How are we able to do this?".

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Post by Pot Hale Mon 28 Sep 2020, 4:34 pm

It’s worth remembering what Leo Cullen and Johnny Sexton said separately about the Saracens team in the context of European games.

The salary cap issue is irrelevant to them as it’s a domestic issue. And French teams with bigger budgets have played against them both and lost.
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Post by Brendan Mon 28 Sep 2020, 5:56 pm

Pot Hale wrote:It’s worth remembering what Leo Cullen and Johnny Sexton said separately about the Saracens team in the context of European games.  

The salary cap issue is irrelevant to them as it’s a domestic issue.  And French teams with bigger budgets have played against them both and lost.  

I agree, only issue was seeding in the groups that made any issue. It will be interesting to see if Exeter continue to add stars to their team or will they start to see people leave aswell. The thing with Sarries was stars only seemed to go it. The back up players at Sarries are more than showing they are good enough for the Premership at their new clubs.

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