It has been a breathless week of news in the world of rugby.
Saracens’ breach of salary cap regulations has been well-documented, but it still came as a surprise to many when they were relegated from the Premiership. Sarries have won the title in four of the last five seasons, and were fined £5.3 million and docked 35 points back in November.
The Six Nations will begin at the beginning of February under a cloud of smoke with questions surrounding many of the top players in the competition.
England captain Owen Farrell attended the Six Nations launch media day, but instead of being faced with questions surrounding England’s chances, he was quizzed about his long-term future and where he’d be playing his rugby next season.
Not just that, but what effect would Saracens’ relegation have on England’s Six Nations chances and is there ill-feeling in the dressing room? Not ideal for the skipper.
The extent to Saracens’ breaches is staggering, as they were found to have broken Premiership laws in three consecutive seasons. Saracens were initially going to appeal against the first ruling, before accepting an audit into their spending at the end of the season.
However, they did resist the committee looking into the three seasons prior as they stated it wouldn’t be fair unless they looked into every other Premiership’s finances during that time period. The situation looks set to rumble on throughout the Six Nations and could have a damaging effect.
There was talk after the initial findings that many of the Saracens players that have been caught up in the scandal may have been missing from selection for the Six Nations. But, that would have seemed impossible for Eddie Jones, as many of his best players play their club rugby with them.
Six of the starters for the World Cup final play their rugby for Saracens, so to lose all of them would have been deeply damaging to any chance England has.
Without stars like Farrell and Mario Itoje, England would have gone from a team that finished runners-up in the World Cup, to one that would be doing well to finish second in the Six Nations. The availability question has been answered firmly by Jones, as he has included five players that are currently contracted to Saracens in his squad for the opening match.
Clear The Air Talks
Jones has insisted that he will do everything within his power to ensure that the situation doesn’t impact on his side’s performance. He admitted that they would be holding clear-the-air talks ahead of the opening match against France, with every player given their chance to air their grievances. It could be a smart move for Jones to address the situation head-on, but he will have to ensure that there is no further fallout.
Farrell also acknowledged that it was important to discuss the situation as the team’s performance is more important. England are the heavy favourites to win the Six Nations this year for the first time since 2017, but they could see those odds plummet if England don’t hit the ground running in their opening match against the French.
The curious thing is that nobody knows of the impact that this is having in the dressing room, and we will have to wait until they take to the pitch to find out whether there is any tension.
If there is, then England’s chances will be over before it even begins, like a horse being injured before the Kentucky Derby race. We will be eager to see how it will unfold.
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