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Saracens boss McCall wants to use World Cup to discover next Itoje

PUBLISHED: 09:00 08 October 2019

Mark McCall, director of rugby at Saracens (right) with Paul Tanner, managing director of Alan Day Group (Pic: Kbapr)

Mark McCall, director of rugby at Saracens (right) with Paul Tanner, managing director of Alan Day Group (Pic: Kbapr)

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Mark McCall sees the Rugby World Cup as a time when younger players can stake their claim to a starting birth in the team.

The Saracens director of rugby says academy players get a chance to showcase their talents when more senior players are away on international duty and points to the example of Maro Itoje.

He responded to being left out of England's 2015 World Cup squad with an outstanding season of rugby that ended with the then 21-year-old being named 2015/16 European Player of the Year.

The Sarries have lost eight players to the England squad, (Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Jack Singleton, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly) two to the Welsh squad (Liam Williams and Rhys Carre) and two to the Scottish camp (Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor), plus Vincent Koch (South Africa), Titi Lamositele (USA) and Juan Figallo (Argentina) but McCall remains upbeat.

"To be fair, all the players who are now well known and are at the World Cup like Maro Itoje had a similar journey," McCall said.

"I had a conversation with him recently and he wasn't in the 2015 World Cup but other players in his position were.

"He got his exposure then and we've all been amazed by his progression over the last four years and hopefully, that can happen to some of the younger players that we have this year.

"In fairness, we understand the season when we put our squad together and the season may change at some point but not for a while I don't think.

"You can either see it as a problem or as an opportunity and we've got a great academy system with some incredibly exciting young players who we believe can take the next step forward now really and what they need is exposure and game time and they need to play and they need the experiences.

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"You can only get that really on the field so it's a massive opportunity for the next generation of our club to get some key game time under their belts."

Although the Gallagher Premiership will have a delayed start this year, the quarter-finals in Japan on October 18 are scheduled at the same time as the opening games.

Mark, who has just been presented with a new Tourag by team sponsors Alan Day Group, added: "It was really encouraging last year with the club winning the European title and Premiership.

"Behind the scenes there was some really brilliant work with our wider group, our younger players emerged and played quite a lot of Premiership rugby with us.

"We are very excited about these players and we know they are going to be very important for the long-term future of the club.

"So we are really excited about this period and this opportunity to expose some of these players."

Mark, also praised his players for helping out on their day off at the Sarries disability programme which helps youngsters with learning difficulties train and play touch rugby on Monday evenings at Allianz Park which is sponsored by Alan Day Group.

"Alan Day's commitment to the Saracens Sports Foundation to the community programme that they run, particularly their work with the autistic kids on Monday evenings is amazing.

"I've been down there a few times myself and my daughter worked as part of that programme last year and got a tremendous amount out of it herself.

"But when you see the respite that the parents get and the joy the autistic kids get when they come down on a Monday night. It's been a real long-term commitment by Alan Day to run that programme.

"It's a fabulous exercise that they do. It's incredibly inspiring to see the joy the kids get. The people who do it week in week out deserve enormous credit."

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