Saracens relieved after Champions Cup reprieve as Mark McCall turns attentions to quarter-final clash

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Saracens head coach Mark McCall is thankful an independent disciplinary committee have not ended the club’s efforts to defend their Heineken Champions Cup title this season.

Last Friday, the Gallagher Premiership side were fined €50,000 (£42,500) – half of which is suspended – for fielding an ineligible player in their January win over Racing 92, but crucially not deducted any points which would have resulted in them exiting the competition.

Prop Titi Lamositele played in the victory, which clinched a quarter-final spot, despite the American international’s work permit expiring on the day before the match.

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Committee chairman Roger Morris explained in a statement last week “this was an unfortunate sequence of events brought about by an administrative oversight” and Sarries will hope to put this latest controversial chapter behind them.

McCall said: “Titi has been at the club since he was 18 and has played however many games for Saracens so there was a difference between this case and other ineligible player cases in Europe.


Rugby in 2019 – in pictures





1/99 1. Saracens vs Sale – 4 Jan

2/99 2. Exeter vs Bristol – 5 Jan

3/99 3. Saracens vs Glasgow – 19 Jan

4/99 4. Ireland vs England – 2 Feb

5/99 5. England vs France – 10 Feb

6/99 6. Wales vs England – 23 Feb

7/99 7. Scotland vs Wales – 9 March

8/99 8. Wales vs Ireland – 16 March

9/99 9. England vs Scotland – 16 March

10/99 10. England Women vs Scotland Women – 16 March

11/99 11. Leinster vs Ulster – 30 March

12/99 12. Saracens vs Munster – 20 April

13/99 13. Saracens vs Leinster – 11 May

14/99 14. Saracens vs Exeter 1 June

15/99 15. England Women vs New Zealand Women 14 July

16/99 16. England Women vs New Zealand Women – 14 July

17/99 17. South Africa vs Australia – 20 July

18/99 18. New Zealand vs South Africa – 27 July

19/99 19. Australia vs New Zealand – 10 August

20/99 20. Argentina vs South Africa – 10 August

21/99 21. New Zealand vs Australia – 17 August

22/99 22. England vs Ireland – 24 August

23/99 23. RWC opening ceremony – 20 October

24/99 24. RWC Japan vs Russia – 20 September

25/99 25. RWC Japan-fans – 20 September

26/99 26. RWC Australia vs Fiji – 21 September

27/99 27. RWC New Zealand vs South Africa – 21 September

28/99 28. RWC Ireland vs Scotland – 21 September

29/99 29. RWC England vs Tonga – 22 September

30/99 30. RWC Wales vs Georgia – 23 September

31/99 31. RWC Fiji vs Uruguay – 25 September

32/99 32. RWC Fiji vs Uruguay – 25 September

33/99 33. RWC England vs USA – 26 September

34/99 34. RWC Japan vs Ireland – 28 September

35/99 35. RWC Japan vs Ireland – 28 September

36/99 36. RWC Australia vs Wales – 29 September

37/99 37. RWC Scotland vs Samoa – 30 September

38/99 38. RWC New Zealand vs Canada – 2 October

39/99 39. RWC England vs Argentina – 5 October

40/99 40. RWC England vs Argentina – 5 October

41/99 41. RWC Japan vs Samoa – 5 October

42/99 42. RWC New Zealand vs Namibia – 6 October

43/99 43. RWC France vs Tonga – 6 October

44/99 44. RWC Scotland vs Russia – 9 October

45/99 45. RWC Wales vs Fiji – 9 October

46/99 46. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

47/99 47. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

48/99 48. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

49/99 49. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

50/99 50. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

51/99 51. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

52/99 52. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

53/99 53. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

54/99 54. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

55/99 55. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

56/99 56. RWC New Zealand vs Ireland – 19 October

57/99 57. RWC New Zealand vs Ireland – 19 October

58/99 58. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

59/99 59. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

60/99 60. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

61/99 61. RWC Japan vs South Africa – 20 October

62/99 62. RWC Japan vs South Africa – 20 October

63/99 63. RWC Japan vs South Africa -20 October

64/99 64. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

65/99 65. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

66/99 66. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

67/99 67. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

68/99 68. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

69/99 69. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

70/99 70. RWC New Zealand vs Wales – 1 November

71/99 71. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

72/99 72. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

73/99 73. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

74/99 74. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

75/99 75. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

76/99 76. RWC England vs South Africa – 4 November

77/99 77. Michael Cheika

78/99 78. Steve Hansen

79/99 79. Ian Foster

80/99 80. Premiership begins – 18 October

81/99 81. Bristol vs Bath – 18 October

82/99 82. Saracens vs Northampton – 19 October

83/99 83. Bath vs Exeter – 25 October

84/99 84. Saracens scandal – 4 November

85/99 85. Dylan Hartley retires

86/99 86. Gloucester vs Toulouse – 15 November

87/99 87. Exeter vs La Rochelle – 16 November

88/99 88. Barbarians vs Fiji

89/99 89. Warren Gatland – 29 November

90/99 90. Wales vs Barbarians

91/99 91. Racing 92 vs Munster – 23 November

92/99 92. Saracens vs Munster

93/99 93. Northampton vs Leicester – 30 November

94/99 94. Doddie Weir – 15 December

95/99 95. Israel Folau

96/99 96. Leicester Tigers vs Bristol Bears – 21 December

97/99 97. Saracens vs Bristol Bears – 21 December

98/99 98. Bristol Bears vs Wasps

99/99 99. Harlequins vs Leicester Tigers

1/99 1. Saracens vs Sale – 4 Jan

2/99 2. Exeter vs Bristol – 5 Jan

3/99 3. Saracens vs Glasgow – 19 Jan

4/99 4. Ireland vs England – 2 Feb

5/99 5. England vs France – 10 Feb

6/99 6. Wales vs England – 23 Feb

7/99 7. Scotland vs Wales – 9 March

8/99 8. Wales vs Ireland – 16 March

9/99 9. England vs Scotland – 16 March

10/99 10. England Women vs Scotland Women – 16 March

11/99 11. Leinster vs Ulster – 30 March

12/99 12. Saracens vs Munster – 20 April

13/99 13. Saracens vs Leinster – 11 May

14/99 14. Saracens vs Exeter 1 June

15/99 15. England Women vs New Zealand Women 14 July

16/99 16. England Women vs New Zealand Women – 14 July

17/99 17. South Africa vs Australia – 20 July

18/99 18. New Zealand vs South Africa – 27 July

19/99 19. Australia vs New Zealand – 10 August

20/99 20. Argentina vs South Africa – 10 August

21/99 21. New Zealand vs Australia – 17 August

22/99 22. England vs Ireland – 24 August

23/99 23. RWC opening ceremony – 20 October

24/99 24. RWC Japan vs Russia – 20 September

25/99 25. RWC Japan-fans – 20 September

26/99 26. RWC Australia vs Fiji – 21 September

27/99 27. RWC New Zealand vs South Africa – 21 September

28/99 28. RWC Ireland vs Scotland – 21 September

29/99 29. RWC England vs Tonga – 22 September

30/99 30. RWC Wales vs Georgia – 23 September

31/99 31. RWC Fiji vs Uruguay – 25 September

32/99 32. RWC Fiji vs Uruguay – 25 September

33/99 33. RWC England vs USA – 26 September

34/99 34. RWC Japan vs Ireland – 28 September

35/99 35. RWC Japan vs Ireland – 28 September

36/99 36. RWC Australia vs Wales – 29 September

37/99 37. RWC Scotland vs Samoa – 30 September

38/99 38. RWC New Zealand vs Canada – 2 October

39/99 39. RWC England vs Argentina – 5 October

40/99 40. RWC England vs Argentina – 5 October

41/99 41. RWC Japan vs Samoa – 5 October

42/99 42. RWC New Zealand vs Namibia – 6 October

43/99 43. RWC France vs Tonga – 6 October

44/99 44. RWC Scotland vs Russia – 9 October

45/99 45. RWC Wales vs Fiji – 9 October

46/99 46. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

47/99 47. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

48/99 48. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

49/99 49. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

50/99 50. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

51/99 51. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

52/99 52. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

53/99 53. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

54/99 54. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

55/99 55. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

56/99 56. RWC New Zealand vs Ireland – 19 October

57/99 57. RWC New Zealand vs Ireland – 19 October

58/99 58. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

59/99 59. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

60/99 60. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

61/99 61. RWC Japan vs South Africa – 20 October

62/99 62. RWC Japan vs South Africa – 20 October

63/99 63. RWC Japan vs South Africa -20 October

64/99 64. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

65/99 65. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

66/99 66. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

67/99 67. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

68/99 68. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

69/99 69. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

70/99 70. RWC New Zealand vs Wales – 1 November

71/99 71. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

72/99 72. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

73/99 73. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

74/99 74. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

75/99 75. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

76/99 76. RWC England vs South Africa – 4 November

77/99 77. Michael Cheika

78/99 78. Steve Hansen

79/99 79. Ian Foster

80/99 80. Premiership begins – 18 October

81/99 81. Bristol vs Bath – 18 October

82/99 82. Saracens vs Northampton – 19 October

83/99 83. Bath vs Exeter – 25 October

84/99 84. Saracens scandal – 4 November

85/99 85. Dylan Hartley retires

86/99 86. Gloucester vs Toulouse – 15 November

87/99 87. Exeter vs La Rochelle – 16 November

88/99 88. Barbarians vs Fiji

89/99 89. Warren Gatland – 29 November

90/99 90. Wales vs Barbarians

91/99 91. Racing 92 vs Munster – 23 November

92/99 92. Saracens vs Munster

93/99 93. Northampton vs Leicester – 30 November

94/99 94. Doddie Weir – 15 December

95/99 95. Israel Folau

96/99 96. Leicester Tigers vs Bristol Bears – 21 December

97/99 97. Saracens vs Bristol Bears – 21 December

98/99 98. Bristol Bears vs Wasps

99/99 99. Harlequins vs Leicester Tigers

“And thankfully I think the committee agreed with that and thought the fine was what was appropriate.

“What was good about qualifying this year in Europe is we’ve used a lot more players than we have done in the past because we were targeting the Premiership until the relegation was confirmed.

“I think we’ve used 42 or 43 players in Europe and that quarter-final was hard-earned and earned by the whole squad, in particular in the last two matches when we went down to 14 men in both and managed to win both, which was a great achievement.

“It (the quarter-final) is something in seven or eight weeks’ time to look forward to.”

Saracens found out they would still face Leinster in April for a spot in the last four while playing Sale in the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-finals last Friday when the verdict of the independent disciplinary committee’s meeting in London was revealed.

Many wondered if the Champions Cup holders would be thrown out of the tournament, given back in the 2012-13 Challenge Cup Grenoble were deducted four points for fielding an ineligible player against London Welsh.

On that occasion Lotu Taukeiaho played for the French outfit even though he was not registered as a tournament squad member.

“Everyone knows Titi has been part of the club for a long time and played in five pool matches as well,” McCall added.

“In other cases the player wasn’t even in the European Cup squad. Titi was in our European Cup squad. It is just one of those things.”

With Saracens still in the Champions Cup, the focus at Allianz Park has turned to defending their crown with relegation from the Premiership confirmed at the end of the season for repeated salary cap breaches.

Head coach McCall admitted “a little bit” of planning has started over how best to use the squad during the six league games between now and the 4 April clash at last season’s beaten finalists Leinster.

“We have a week off in between after these first four Premiership matches so with some players, they won’t play all six of those games,” he said.

“They will play a good percentage of them, but not all six. We will try to rotate the squad and drill this period down to keep everybody busy.”

After losing at Sale last weekend in the Premiership Rugby Cup, Sarries will welcome Steve Diamond’s team to Allianz Park in the league on Saturday.

McCall revealed the younger members who impressed in the defeat could feature in the second meeting in quick succession between the sides.

He added: “We’ve got 10 playing international rugby and a few people injured as well, so we’ll have a different team.

“But some of the lads that played on Friday night will get the chance to play again and against a team who are really on top of their game at the moment and one of the form teams in the Premiership.”

PA

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