Saracens stars to STAY with relegated club – with blessing of England and Lions
Owen Farrell and his Saracens pals head into clear-the-air talks with England team mates today armed with extraordinary assurances about their club futures.
In a sensational development Farrell, Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Elliot Daly and the Vunipola brothers have agreed to stay loyal to their relegated club – with the joint blessing of Eddie Jones and Warren Gatland.
Saracens’ superstars have been offered the chance to enter into what chief executive Ed Griffiths termed a “tripartite understanding” with club, country and the Lions, who tour South Africa at the end of next season.
"We are try to introduce an innovative idea in rugby which is a bit of joined-up thinking,” said Griffiths, “to ensure Saracens, England and the Lions effectively look at the proposal for each individual player and agree, so it works.
“There is no one size fits all rule to this. We have opened communications with Eddie and Warren and for those senior players, what we will do is work out their programme, sitting with each of them, next year.”
Fury at the conduct of Saracens, who cheated the salary cap to dominate domestic and European rugby for the last three years, has led to Premiership-wide resentment.
Eddie Jones demanded on Monday that the players bury the hatchet on the first day of their Six Nations prep camp in Portugal and then focus fully on preparing to face France away on Sunday week.
Farrell left for the Algarve admitting he did not know how much division there was in England ranks but saying that it would quickly become clear.
So too will the findings in the report into Saracens' salary cap breaches after the club last night agreed that it can finally be published.
It happened even sooner than the club expected – continuing the shambolic handling of this episode – with the details leaked ahead of publication.
They showed Saracens breached the salary cap in 2016-17 by more than £1.1m; in 2017-18 by just over £98,000 and in 2018-19 by £906,000.
Lord Dyson’s investigation showed that Saracens owner Nigel Wray, who resigned as club chairman earlier this month, made payments totalling £1.3m by entering into property joint ventures with players.
According to the report Itoje, Chris Ashton, Billy and Mako Vunipola and Richard Wigglesworth benefited in various ways from investments. There is no suggestion any of the players were aware of any wrongdoing.
The panel actually advised against Sarries’ relegation, concluding: "We accept that the breaches were not deliberate, but in our view they were reckless.
"We consider that to impose a deduction of 70 points in one salary cap year is disproportionate and is not required to satisfy the underlying purpose of the relegations."
Billy Vunipola, who broke his forearm again at the weekend, is expected to be sidelined for a minimum of four months.
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