Saracens are facing up to a potential player exodus after the worst-kept secret in the Premiership was confirmed with the announcement the London club are to be relegated for breaching salary-cap regulations.

The London club were docked 35 points and fined £5.36million in November for flouting the rules in each of the past three seasons, and currently sit bottom of the Premiership.

However, after talks between Premiership Rugby and Saracens in the aftermath of the initial punishment, the club will now drop down to the Championship for 2020-21.

It throws up huge doubts over the future of some of the Premiership's biggest names, who have all tasted success with Saracens over the club's recent period of dominance – including a domestic and European double last term.

Six Saracens players started in England's Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa - including captain Owen Farrell - while Vincent Koch featured for the Springboks in that match.

Meanwhile, Liam Williams, a regular for Wales in the tournament, has already started the departures, having agreed to rejoin Scarlets at the end of the season.

Following the news of Saracens' impending relegation to the second tier, we take a look at the star names who seem destined to become available.

Owen Farrell

Sure to be in demand is England skipper Farrell has spent his entire senior career with Saracens, having made his debut aged 17 in 2008, becoming - at the time - the youngest player to appear in an English professional rugby union match. He has gone on to become one of the world's best players, winning the Six Nations twice with England as well as five Premiership titles and three Champions Cups with Saracens.

Maro Itoje

Having won four Premierships and three European Champions Cups at club level by the age of 25, Maro Itoje is expected to be a man in demand. The British and Irish Lion, who plays lock or blindside flanker, should still have his best years ahead of him but is already an established international player, having won two Six Nations trophies and helped England to the World Cup final last year as part of his 34 caps. He has spent his whole professional career at Saracens.

Mako Vunipola

The elder Vunipola brother joined up with Saracens from Bristol in 2011 and has made 110 appearances, scoring 15 tries. He made his England debut in 2012 against Fiji and has been a key player for club and country ever since. 

Billy Vunipola

Two years after his sibling had signed for Saracens, Billy Vunipola followed suit. He has played in 71 Premiership matches for Sarries, with 15 tries to his name and has featured in just 11 defeats. Internationally, he has made 51 Test appearances for England.

Elliot Daly

The versatile back - who has featured in 42 Tests for England - only joined Saracens from Wasps in 2019 ahead of the current Premiership season. He has scored 13 tries for England and one in four Premiership appearances so far for Saracens.

Jamie George

Like Farrell, George came through the ranks at Saracens and made his first-team debut just a year after the England captain. He has made over 150 Premiership appearances for the club, starting 83 times and accumulating 125 points from 25 tries. At 29, it seems unlikely the hooker will be wishing to drop into the Championship.

Vincent Koch

Signed in 2016, Koch has scored three top-flight tries during his time with Saracens, making 48 Premiership appearances in total. The prop did not start for South Africa in November's World Cup showdown in Japan, though came on early in the second half to help the Springboks to a 32-12 victory.

Will Skelton

Former Australia lock Skelton was linked with a move back to the southern hemisphere last year before signing a new deal. He has scored three tries for Saracens since joining, and made 18 Test appearances for the Wallabies between 2014 and 2016.

Saracens breathed new life into their European Champions Cup title defence as the Vunipola brothers starred in a 15-6 win over Munster at Allianz Park.

The reigning champions, who have lifted the trophy in three of the past four seasons, had won just one of their opening three games and came into the game trailing Pool 4 leaders Racing 92 by 11 points.

They were 6-3 behind against Munster early in the second half when a melee ensued after Jamie George appeared to be enraged by a conversation with a member of Munster's staff.

The brawl spilled over onto the advertising hoardings and, once it had subsided, Munster got a penalty which JJ Hanrahan missed.

Saracens soon came alive as Billy Vunipola, with three men converging on him, flipped a brilliant pass out to Sean Maitland to score before Mako Vunipola dotted down eight minutes from time to leave Sarries just one point behind second-placed Munster.

Leinster, the side Sarries beat in last season's final, made it four wins from four in Pool 1 with a dominant 50-21 victory over Northampton as Garry Ringrose scored a hat-trick.

The Ireland centre went over twice in the opening six minutes before Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kearney earned Leinster a bonus point prior to half-time.

Ringrose completed his treble after James Lowe had scored, with Caelan Doris crossing for Leinster's seventh and final try.

Premiership leaders Northampton - whose try-scorers were Dan Biggar, Ollie Sleightholme and Ahsee Tuala - now trail Leinster by 10 points with two games remaining.

Robin Copeland's 81st-minute try earned Connacht a 27-24 success over Gloucester, while Marco Lazzaroni's late score proved the difference in Benetton Treviso's 25-22 triumph against Lyon.

Toulouse beat Montpellier 26-18 while La Rochelle edged past Glasgow Warriors 12-7.

 

Eddie Jones says England cannot give South Africa the opportunity to play their own game if his side are to triumph in the Rugby World Cup final.

England put in a dominant performance against two-time defending champions New Zealand in the semi-finals, claiming a 19-7 win in Yokohama and progressing to their first World Cup final since 2007.

South Africa were their opponents on that occasion, too, with the Springboks coming out on top 15-6 in Paris.

Rassie Erasmus' South Africa defeated Wales to tee up Saturday's rematch and, while their victory was less convincing than England's against the All Blacks, Jones sees no room for complacency.

The England coach wants his team to seize the initiative early again, having scored with a Manu Tuilagi try after just two minutes to stun New Zealand.

"We just want to go out there and play," Jones told a news conference. "The great thing for us is that we have done the preparation, we know we have done the preparation and we are ready for this occasion.

"We have spent four years getting ready for this occasion. That is why the players can be relaxed, that is why I can be relaxed, because we know we have done the work. We are not relaxed about knowing what is in front of us.

"We know South Africa are going to come hard. They have got a history of being the most physically intimidating team in the world, so we have got to take that away from them.

"The boys know what is ahead of them, everyone knows what is at stake, but because we have had such a good preparation, we can go out there and play without any fear.

"We have got to go out there and make the game, we've got to take the game to South Africa. We can't afford to go in the game and expect South Africa to give us a game.

"So our whole mindset this week is about taking the game to South Africa, playing with no fear, where can we take our game to, what level can we take our game to."

Mako Vunipola will start alongside his brother Billy in an unchanged side for England, and the prop is relishing his chance on the biggest stage.

"I didn't dream of it, not many people get the opportunity to play in a World Cup final," he told Sky Sports.

"Me and Billy are very fortunate we get to share it, with our whole family here as well. Once we get out there, it's just another game. We've got to go out there and do our bit for the team and keep it simple.

"[The team] have spent a long time together now and there's a bond and belief running through the team. We're very confident of what we have in the group but very aware of the challenge ahead."

Billy Vunipola struck a defiant tone ahead of England's Rugby World Cup final with South Africa, telling the Springboks to "bring it on".

His words came after Lood de Jager promised the underdogs would "fight fire with fire" in what the towering South African lock expects to be a bruising encounter in Yokohama on Saturday.

Rassie Erasmus' men produced a gritty display to edge out Wales 19-16 in their semi-final, while England claimed a far more eye-catching 19-7 defeat of reigning champions New Zealand.

But the physical battle will be intense this weekend and Vunipola insists Eddie Jones' side are ready for it.

"They have already come out and said they want to fight fire with fire. I guess we return it by saying, 'bring it on'," said the number eight.

"They are very, very big people but then again we have a few big blokes on our team."

Vunipola revealed the bold approach England took in the semi-final inspired him, with Jones' men combining free-flowing rugby with a controlled aggression that rattled the All Blacks.

"It's something that you probably can't measure, but I think the best way to explain it is that it's quite contagious," he said.

"It shows everyone it can be done, so everyone else tries to follow in the slipstreams of [Sam] Underhill, [Tom] Curry, [Maro] Itoje.

"It's very easy when you see it. A lot of people talk about it and it's easy to sit here and say we want to be brutal, but you have to back those words up."

Vunipola faces a tough fight of his own against opposite number Duane Vermeulen, having ended up on the losing side three times against him.

"He's such a big player for them," Vunipola said. "I played against him last summer and he was monumental in terms of getting them those two victories [in a series the Springboks won 2-1].

"Not just myself, but we've got to try and negate the influence of him and everyone else around him."

Billy Vunipola has Rugby World Cup success in his sights but the England number eight is hoping a bit of pre-match coaching from his auntie does not prove a distraction.

England meet South Africa in the final in Yokohama this weekend after producing a stunning display to beat reigning champions New Zealand 19-7.

Eddie Jones' side are favourites to prevail in a match against opponents who narrowly edged out Wales in their semi-final, favouring a kicking game that is in stark contrast to England's free-flowing style.

Vunipola has been a key part of that approach but, despite being on the brink of glory in Japan, he is still getting tips from the family who have travelled to support him and his brother, Mako.

"They can be a distraction as well," said the 26-year-old of his visiting loved ones. "You know, [getting them] tickets, trying to give you pointers on how to play rugby.

"My auntie is always great for that. But their support is very important to us. I guess that's all we need at the moment.

"My auntie is trying to tell me how to play number eight and things to my brother as well. So, as good as it is to have them, they can be a distraction."

On the serious business of wrapping up the title, Vunipola knows England must reproduce the levels they showed from the start against the previously all-conquering All Blacks. 

"We've set out wanting to be the best in the world and we've got to back up what we did last week," he said. "It can't just be a fluke.

"I think the challenge has been laid out by South Africa and you saw them taking Japan apart and Wales.

"The challenge is going to be up front and so we are going to have to be there, both mentally and physically."

Billy Vunipola has been declared fit to start Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final with Australia in Oita, as Eddie Jones makes three changes to the team which defeated Argentina 39-10.

Vunipola has recovered from an ankle injury suffered against Los Pumas a fortnight ago and will take his place alongside brother Mako, who replaces Joe Marler at loose-head prop.

Courtney Lawes is preferred to George Kruis in the second-row, while in-form George Ford has been dropped to the bench in favour of Exeter Chiefs' back Henry Slade.

It means captain Owen Farrell will switch from inside centre to fly-half with Slade playing alongside Manu Tulagi, as the pair that started four of England's five Six Nations matches reunite in midfield.

In the only other change to the 23-man squad that faced Argentina, Jack Nowell is out with a hamstring injury having not trained this week, with Jonathan Joseph earning a recall.

"We feel Mako (Vunipola) is ready to play a significant part in this game with his ability to scrummage and be effective in general play," said England coach Eddie Jones.

"George Ford will finish the game and will have a significant role for us. We just feel at the start of the game it's going to be brutal and having Owen at 10 will serve the team in the best interests.

"The game of rugby is pretty simple. You've got to win the ball, control the ball and score points when you've got it.

"The Australians are a clever team who will have some specific attacking strategies against us, so we will need to have a greater situational awareness, to defend with brutality and play on top of them"

England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willie Heinz, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph.
 

Page 2 of 2
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.