Owen Farrell set for first Saracens appearance since announcing Test break

By Sports Desk December 06, 2023

Owen Farrell will make his first appearance since his decision to step away from Test rugby was announced when Saracens launch their Investec Champions Cup campaign on Saturday.

England captain Farrell will be unavailable for the Six Nations later this season after choosing to take a break from the international game to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being.

He then missed Saracens’ Gallagher Premiership defeat against Northampton due to a knee problem.

But Saracens rugby director Mark McCall has confirmed the 32-year-old fly-half will face leading South African challengers the Bulls in Pretoria.

“He’s available and he is going to play this weekend,” McCall said. “He has trained fully over the last two days.

“He has enjoyed being with his team-mates, and it is a great opportunity for us all to spend a bit of time together away from the British winter.

“I don’t know how many European Cup games he has played – him and Alex Goode have probably played in more than anybody at the club.

“He is our captain, he is our leader, someone who is respected by everyone at the club. To have him on the field, of course, is an enormous benefit.

“Not just to have him on the field, but have him in the team-room, in the meetings… His contribution is so enormous and it is great to have him here with us.”

Three-time European champions Saracens have won the tournament more than any other English club, although they made a quarter-final exit last term to eventual winners La Rochelle.

And they will tackle a Bulls side currently third in the United Rugby Championship, having won five out of seven league fixtures this season.

McCall added: “We have been really impressed with what we have seen, especially in their last couple of home games. They are strong in all areas.

“Games don’t get much tougher in round one than coming to the Bulls, especially with the run of form they are on, but it is a challenge which usually brings the best out of the group we have got.

“We’ve had a good relationship with this competition for a very long period of time. It has felt really good on the training field from the moment we touched down here.”

Related items

  • Jofra Archer: I don’t know if I’ve got another stop-start year in me Jofra Archer: I don’t know if I’ve got another stop-start year in me

    England bowler Jofra Archer admits he may not be able to cope with any fresh injury problems, revealing “I don’t know if I have another stop-start year in me”.

    Archer has been plagued by a litany of fitness problems since bursting on to the international scene in 2019 but is on the comeback trail with hopes of featuring in June’s T20 World Cup in the United States of America and his native Caribbean.

    The seamer is not yet certain if he will make the tournament, having last played competitively 11 months ago following a repeat stress fracture in his right elbow, but insists avoiding further setbacks is crucial.

    The mental and physical toll has been considerable on Archer and he accepts another breakdown could be one too far.

    “It’s been a while and honestly, I don’t know if I’ve got another stop-start year in me. That’s the truth, I don’t know if I’ve got another one,” he told the 4Cast’s Athlete’s Voice podcast.

    “I haven’t played cricket for a whole 12 months as yet. Last year I played from January to May. I think the year before that, I played maybe one or two games for Sussex, so you know I’ve had a whole year of nothing.”

    England are taking a cautious approach with his latest return, taking an early decision to withdraw him from the Indian Premier League and pre-emptively ruling him out of the rigours of Test cricket until next year.

    Instead they hope to unleash him in familiar territory in the West Indies, where they will look to defend their 20-over crown.

    He shares that ambition but is refusing to count on it.

    “Come the first game in June I really do want to be in the team. The last two years have been really stop-start, so I just think that, you know, everyone’s going to just take it a bit easy,” he said.

    “If I’m ready then fine, happy days, but if I’m not they’re still supporting me. Worst-case scenario, I don’t really want to think about this, but even if I don’t make it to the World Cup for whatever reason, there’s still the T20 Blast, there’s still The Hundred.

    “There’s still cricket that I haven’t got a chance to play in the last couple of years, so as much as I want to play in the World Cup, if it doesn’t happen for whatever reason, at least I still know I could be somewhat active.”

    And if Archer does manage to pull an England shirt back on during their visit to his home island of Barbados, he is expecting to see some friendly faces in the crowd.

    “I know it’s not dog friendly in the Caribbean as much as it is here in the UK, but I’d love my family and my dogs at that first game back,” he added.

  • Wales and Lions hooker Ken Owens retires aged 37 due to injury Wales and Lions hooker Ken Owens retires aged 37 due to injury

    Former Wales captain Ken Owens has announced his retirement from the game after failing to recover from a back problem.

    The 37-year-old hooker, who played five Tests for the British and Irish Lions, has been sidelined for almost a year because of the injury, last playing for the Scarlets in April 2023.

    Owens won two Grand Slams and two further Six Nations titles during his 91 caps for Wales, whom he led during last year’s Six Nations.

    “Reluctantly, I am announcing my retirement from rugby. Not playing has been challenging, but the time is right to follow medical advice and hang up my boots,” he said.

    “Had I written the script there would have been one more game for Wales, for the Scarlets and ultimately Carmarthen Athletic. A chance to sign off and thank everyone involved.

    “It was not to be. It might not be the dream ending, but my career has been more than I could have dreamt of.

    “Whilst part of me wishes I could have done more, I am well aware that if you had told me as a kid I would be fortunate enough to experience what I have, to have worked with and played with the people I have and taken the pleasure I have from this amazing game, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

  • Rob Baxter urges Premiership to match Leinster pulling power after Barrett coup Rob Baxter urges Premiership to match Leinster pulling power after Barrett coup

    Exeter boss Rob Baxter insists the Gallagher Premiership should aim to match Leinster’s ambition by developing their own ‘Fortnum and Mason’ recruitment policy.

    The Irish province have pulled off a major coup by signing New Zealand’s brilliant centre Jordie Barrett while in the prime of his career as he has agreed a short-term deal for next season.

    Baxter believes the 27-year-old’s sabbatical is valuable for European rugby and wants the English top flight to also become an appealing destination for overseas stars.

    “It makes you a bit jealous that you’re not working in Leinster’s recruitment department!” Baxter said.

    “I know (former Saracens, Sale and Worcester director of rugby) Steve Diamond once said it depends what shop you go shopping in: is it Waitrose or is it Aldi?”

    Referencing an upmarket London department store, Baxter continued: “It might be Fortnum and Mason depending on how you want to look at it!

    “If Irish rugby, Leinster and the United Rugby Championship can get their house in order to allow them to invest in players, their programme and their coaches like they do, you have to say fair play.

    “My response would be, ‘let’s not try to say it’s not fair and limit Leinster, let’s look to ways we can get to that level of competition with them’.

    “You can look around and say, ‘let’s stop everyone else doing it because we can’t do it’. Or you go, ‘what are they doing to develop that level of interest and finance and why can’t we do it?’.

    “I don’t think it’s bad for these competitions to have world-class players. What we want to find out is ways that we can do it as well.

    “You have to work to make the competition look attractive and the way the game is played look attractive.

    “To get that deal in place to sign a player you have to get a lot of financial bits and pieces right – and that runs right from the top of the game to the bottom in the country.

    “There’s a lot we have to do to get to that level, but why shouldn’t we be aiming for it? That’s what we should be trying to do.”

    The Premiership has defied its critics by supplying two teams to the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals in Northampton and Harlequins, with Leinster and Toulouse completing the line-up.

    Baxter believes that has been managed even though the league has temporarily been reduced to a “developing competition” due to the financial implications of the pandemic and lack of funds in the English game.

    “Two sides in the semi-finals is obviously fantastic. We want to expose the Premiership to as many new viewers as we can, for obvious reasons. Whether we make it a regular occurrence, that’s the challenge,” the director of rugby said.

    “The Premiership is expected to be a developing competition again. We’ve had to do a lot of things around Covid and the financial situation in the country.

    “We’ve had to make some adjustments but we will hope as a competition that we will regrow ourselves over the coming period as well.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.