Injury worries for McCall as Saracens edge out Glasgow in bruising European match
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Mark McCall was left counting the cost of Saracens’ bruising Heineken Champions Cup battle with Glasgow Warriors.
The north Londoners opened their European campaign with a 13-3 victory at Scotstoun — but it was a match that left its mark on some of the team’s top stars.
Mako Vunipola and brother Billy both had to be replaced with knocks, while their England team-mates Maro Itoje and Jamie George were also in the wars with broken noses.
That could present England head coach Eddie Jones with a headache as he prepares to name his England squad for the November internationals on Thursday.
But Sarries director of rugby McCall’s concern is now about how many of his main talents he will have to call on for next Saturday’s visit of Lyon.
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The Northern Irishman — whose side edged victory thanks to a Mike Rhodes try and eight points from the boot of Owen Farrell — said: “Mako’s is a calf injury, Billy’s an arm — but it’s too early to say how serious they are.
“Owen got a bang on his knee, but he seemed to be OK after the game. Nick Isiekwe hurt his calf or his ankle too and that’s why he wasn’t able to continue on the field.
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“Maro and Jamie have both got broken noses — so it was a tough old game. It’s a bit of a worry for next weekend the amount of injuries we’ve picked up
“Is that an unusual injury toll? Of course it is, but it is the way it is.”
Regarding the match itself, McCall said it was a “very important” win for his side, even though he admits they were not on top form.
He said: “I don’t think it was our best performance — pretty far from it — but all of that is down to the opposition we’re playing against.
“It’s a very important win and the most pleasing thing is how we scrapped when we needed to scrap.
“I thought Glasgow defended brilliantly. They made us work really hard for quick ball, something we struggled to get. They are a dangerous team as well and we had to scramble back a few times.”
Warriors had reason to be frustrated with French referee Mathieu Raynal after he failed to spot Alex Lozowski being dragged into touch in the build-up to Rhodes’ touchdown, as well as allowing Saracens to drag down a series of mauls in first-half stoppage time without being pinged for a penalty try.
But Glasgow coach Dave Rennie said he would look at his own side’s faults before taking aim at the officials.
“We gave them a pretty soft 10 points early on in the game,” said the New Zealander. “From then on I thought we defended pretty well.
“Can’t fault the attitude - the effort was outstanding. But we just need to be far more clinical and patient when we’re attacking, especially on the penalty advantage. You can go seven, eight or nine phases, keep applying pressure, but a couple of times we’ve gone for the miracle play.
“If we start talking about refs we’ll be here for a long time. There was obviously a couple of decisions that could have gone the other way, maybe, but we’ll look at ourselves. We just need to be more clinical with ball in hand and turn pressure into points.”