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Saracens fear explosion in wages could wreck team

Saracens coach Alex Sanderson fears the club may struggle to retain their galaxy of England and Lions stars, with the likes of Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Jamie George set to command mega salaries when their contracts are up for renewal.

With Itoje tipped to become the Premiership’s first £1m player when his deal expires in 2019 and others certain to command top dollar, Sanderson has voiced concerns over his club effectively being ‘punished’ for producing home-grown talent.

He told The Rugby Paper: “We’re perturbed about retaining our players. We’ve got a lot of lads who are now ‘Lions legends’ who we’ve brought through since they were 15 or 16, but will be coming out of contract over the next couple of years.

“Their agents will be asking for more money, which you can’t blame them for, but it feels like you get punished for bringing lads through your academy who are playing well.

“There’s 12 internationals in our squad so we need two teams at our club, but you can’t just shop around and bring guys of that quality in. And in any case, how can you support two full teams financially over the length of the season?

“We get punished for it because we look after our guys and we actually missed out on a home Premiership semi-final last season because of it. We rested people and lost, so it doesn’t work and these are the difficulties we are facing.”

In an effort to steal a march on their Premiership rivals, Sanderson, below, revealed how he has visited Super Rugby sides Crusaders and Hurricanes over the summer as last season’s beaten semi-finalists seek fresh ideas to help reclaim their crown.

He explained: “With the Crusaders we were looking at the set-piece and breakdown, while with the Hurricanes it’s their attacking prowess.

“You’ve got to be brave enough to change things and while last season we had the best defence by 100 points, do we only need to be the best defence by ten points and have a better attack? We’re looking at how we can move that on.”

NEALE HARVEY

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