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Clamour for Saracens’ free agents may start a slaughter, says Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson

Ripple effects from Saracens’ impending relegation to the Championship may lead to a “slaughter” of middle-ranked Premiership players attempting to negotiate new contracts, predicts experienced Gloucester scrum-half Joe Simpson.

While Saracens are committed to retaining a young core squad capable of bouncing back from the Championship and top stars like Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje are likely to stay, players on the fringes of England selection like Ben Earl, Max Malins, Nick Isiekwe and Jack Singleton will need to remain in the top-flight.

Out of contract centre Alex Lozowski is attracting huge interest from other Premiership sides, while senior squad men such as Michael Rhodes, Juan Figallo, Joe Gray, Calum Clark and Alex Lewington are also likely to move.

Simpson fears a flood of Saracens players becoming available will have a detrimental effect elsewhere, telling The Rugby Paper: “If you look at the contract market now, you’re probably going to have a lot of players from Saracens being free and available, so that adds to the pressure for other players trying to get their deals over the line.

“When you’ve got more than a dozen international standard players becoming available and looking for clubs, it’s going to put an even greater squeeze on that middle ground of players who are already taking the brunt of salary cap limitations.

“The big dogs are always going to command top money but it’s that middle area of solid Premiership players who are really being affected. What’s happened won’t just have ramifications for the Sarries boys, it will have ramifications for anyone who’s coming out of contract soon and who’s negotiating with their club at the moment.”

Simpson, who joined Gloucester from Wasps last summer, believes the Saracens issue will exacerbate a salary cap timebomb that has been building for years.

He added: “It’s becoming a really big issue because Premiership rugby is not like football where you have strong leagues throughout Europe and players can always move around. There are pretty much the same number of jobs available in English rugby every year and players with slightly less bargaining power are being squeezed hard.

“It’s down to economics but there’s definitely been a changing market over the last three years and if you look at someone like Luke Wallace – a really great player – having to go to Coventry from Quins, that highlights it perfectly.

“You hear of countless other players who haven’t been able to pick up jobs because of a tightening in the cap. While internationals are getting £100,000 or £200,000 more here and there, the middle ground is getting slaughtered.”

Meanwhile, Simpson believes Gloucester can put aside their disappointing Champions Cup exit by ramping-up their Premiership title bid.

He said: “There have been a few consistency issues and in Europe we were in great positions against Toulouse and Connacht but let them slip.

“Exeter are a great blueprint and they deserve to be at the top of the Premiership. It’s something we want to emulate and we’re taking strides in the right direction.

“We’ve got one target now – the Premiership – so it’s about continuing the evolution of our squad now and working towards that.”

NEALE HARVEY

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