England’s Saracens stars set to play on in Championship

England head coach Eddie Jones.
England head coach Eddie Jones.
Have your say

Saracens’ established England internationals are set to remain at the crisis-stricken club after being given the blessing of Eddie Jones and Warren Gatland to play in the Championship.

The reigning English and European champions will be relegated at the end of the season as punishment for repeated breaches of the £7m salary cap, sparking fears of an exodus of stars wanting to protect their Test careers.

But the likes of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola are poised to remain at Allianz Park after being reassured by England and the Lions that a season out of the Premiership will not harm their chances of selection.

Saracens have been in discussion with Jones and Gatland and see a campaign in the second tier of English rugby as similar to an All Blacks-style sabbatical that could prolong careers.

“The international players had a very clear view on what they wanted to do, all of them. Luckily enough that coincided with what we wanted as well,” director of rugby Mark McCall said.

“Eddie is on the whole happy to select players who are established, Warren Gatland the same. A lot of our international players are proven international players and they see it as maybe a season where those players...you’ve seen New Zealand players having sabbatical-type seasons. It would be like that.

“Warren Gatland is keen to get as fresh a Lions team as possible to take to South Africa in 2021 and certainly our situation, in a funny kind of way, is going to help him.”

Saracens’ England stars would play only a limited number of games in 2020-21 and it could be finalised in time for the Six Nations start on Saturday week.

It is unknown whether Saracens’ ‘financial doping’ will cause divisions in England’s squad for the Six Nations.

Jones is to hold clear-the-air talks upon arrival in Portugal on Thursday when players will have the opportunity to voice any grievances in the hope they can be addressed before the tournament opener against France on February 2.

It has emerged that Saracens’ Premiership rivals, led by Harlequins, have been feeding Premiership Rugby’s salary cap officer information on the double winners, pointing to a potentially frosty meeting in the Algarve.

“We will be honest and up front about it and we will come through it and get on with what’s in front of us,” said Farrell. “I don’t think it will be difficult for me at all.”