The difficult situation Saracens players find themselves in
Any fan of rugby will know that Saracens are a club to be reckoned with. With an impressive record of winning four Premiership titles in the last five seasons, the talent of the squad cannot be denied. This was evident when England Head Coach Eddie Jones took eight of the Sarries boys over to Japan to reach the final of the Rugby World Cup. Although whilst the players were celebrating in Tokyo having beaten the New Zealand All Blacks, despair had set in at their club.
It was revealed that Saracens had breached salary cap rules, and as a result, the side were punished with a 35 point deduction as well as a £5.3 million fine. With the boys away from their club for the first few games of the season, alongside this deduction of points, the chance of winning a title was fading.
But it continued to blow out of proportion. Other clubs in the league felt as though they were cheated from titles in previous years, and rumours of legal action spread. However, with such a high impact on the England starting XV, rugby fans were starting to worry about what this turn of events could mean for the Six Nations Championship set to take place next year.
The odds for the Six Nations have England pitched as the favourites. But with the Sarries currently sitting bottom of the table with minus 18 points, it’ll be a hard-hitting season for the boys to compete for the top spot. With one of the most difficult seasons for the club ahead, where does this leave England in the Six Nations?
The rumour mill
The immediate conclusion that was jumped to was that the Sarries boys wouldn’t attend their national duties. Jones announced his fears that the fall out over the scandal would impact the spirit of the team after a successful campaign in Japan.
In a conversation with BBC Sport, Jones said: “Obviously there may be some dislocation between Saracens players and the rest of the clubs. That’s a reality and we may have to work to mend those relationships a bit harder.
There might be some Saracens players who feel like they’ve got to play for their club instead of their country, to make sure they don’t go down. So we’ll weigh all those up as they come about.”
Jones’ fear of a two-sided camp is understandable, but many Saracens players have spoken out, announcing their commitment to their country. Club Director Mark McCall has also spoken out, saying the club’s England players “will be available to play in the Six Nations next year”.
The difficult table they face
The reality is that Saracens will not be giving up on either competition. They are dedicated to securing their place in the Premiership but also refuse to give up their international duties.
With four games won and a single defeat so far this season, the club are looking in good stead, but the ladder to the top is now 37 points away. Saracens players need to be in perfect form all season long and must hope for little competition from other clubs.
Northampton Saints will be seeing this point deduction as a huge opportunity to win the title this campaign, although they alone cannot prevent Saracens from winning the title. They will be heavily relying on other top teams to perform, in order to prevent the Sarries from reaching the playoffs, a one-horse race will not secure the title for the Saints. If the Saracens make the playoffs, they have a real chance of claiming the title once more. For the north London club, it will seem the entire Premiership is against them.
It’s fair to say that Saracens have the weight of the world on their shoulders at the moment. Fighting to survive and potentially retain a title, but for those eight players to then have enough energy to win the Six Nations also, it seems like a tough feat. Surely they will have to put all their eggs in one basket eventually, but which will it be?