Cap cheats Saracens to break up squad

Wallabies forward Will Skelton, left, could be one of many Saracens players forced out of the club.
Wallabies forward Will Skelton, left, could be one of many Saracens players forced out of the club.

Former NSW Waratahs and Wallabies lock Will Skelton could be one of several big name players squeezed out of Saracens following the club's salary cap rort.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall confirmed on Sunday the club's star-studded squad must be broken up after the club accpeted relegation at the end of the season as a punishment.

When given the choice of opening up their books for a forensic audit and handing back trophies for the triumphant years of 2018 and 2019 or accepting demotion, they crisis-hit north London club opted for the latter.

They had already received a 35-point deduction and STG5.36million ($A10.15 million) fine for exceeding the STGmillion ($A13 million) limit for each of the last three seasons, but their rivals' patience over attempts to reduce their wage bill ran out.

Saracens can at least defend their Champions Cup crown after defeating Racing 92 27-24, despite the sending off of Skelton, to reach the quarter-finals, but stars such as Owen Farrell Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers might not be present beyond May.

"Of course there are going to be changes," said McCall, who confirmed he would like to remain at the club.

"There's no doubt the bunch of players we've got in our squad now aren't going to be the same bunch of players we have in the Championship next year. That's for sure.

"In many ways this is the end of that era that dates back to the start of 2009. We have got some time to plan for a new era, a new journey, and that is the optimistic way of looking at it."

While England can pick players competing in the Championship, there is no precedent for it and McCall admits there will be discussions with Eddie Jones over what he wants from his stars.

Saracens supplied six starters for last autumn's World Cup final defeat by South Africa and would have been widely represented in Warren Gatland's 2021 Lions squad but for relegation.

England may choose to activate their exceptional circumstances rule to enable them to pick the likes of Farrell and Itoje even if they have agreed contracts to play in France or Japan.

Saracens are seeking urgent talks with Jones and Gatland to shape discussions with their players.

"Every player has got a slightly different situation," McCall said.

"We'll also have to talk to Eddie Jones and see what he thinks, in terms of his established players from Saracens and the younger ones. Is he prepared for people to be playing in the Championship?

In a statement released on Sunday, Saracens apologised unreservedly for the scandal, adding "our goal is to rebuild confidence and trust", while club captain Brad Barritt offers a player's perspective.

"People have given their lives to this club, the better part of their career. Everyone is hugely disappointed. Everyone is devastated about it," Barritt said.

"This is something we've all grown up loving. In many ways we don't go into it to make money."

Australian Associated Press