Saracens boss McCall not pushing for enforced rest for English players
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Saracens boss Mark McCall believes Premiership clubs would struggle to find “value for money” if forced to rest England players as as often as Ireland’s top stars.
McCall insisted reigning Premiership champions Saracens have never had any problems with the English set-up, where the clubs and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) work under detailed agreements as to playing times.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has control over its top Test stars and how frequently they feature for their provinces, a system that has received wide plaudits as Joe Schmidt’s side have moved to second in the world rankings.
But McCall insisted Saracens do not feel disadvantaged alongside their Irish provincial counterparts, who tend to roll out their top stars for top European contests.
Asked if he feels Saracens have a tougher task in keeping players fresh for Europe than the Irish provinces, rugby director McCall replied: “We have never experienced that as a problem.
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“I have always said that when our players come back from the Six Nations or whatever it is not as if they limp back in.
“They have been phenomenal - we have always finished seasons strongly because of the attitude that brings.
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“The truth is the Irish players are in an entirely different system. If English players were in the same system, or rested as much as those Irish players and the clubs still paid them the same, none of them would seem very good value-for-money players - if they never played. They have to play some games at some point.
“They are going to miss seven Premiership matches in the Six Nations, two more which are guaranteed rest weeks which you must get if you’re involved - that’s nine of 22 matches - can we rest them more besides that? They’re only going to play nine or 10 Premiership matches and I think that’s OK.”
Saracens boss McCall insisted England fly-half Owen Farrell is firing on all cylinders and feeling fresh, despite recent reports suggesting the club had been concerned about the possibility of him suffering burnout.
“There were comparisons between Owen (Farrell) and Johnny Sexton last year, but Owen is 27 and Sexton is 33 - a 27-year-old probably needs to play more than Johnny Sexton does,” said McCall.
“It is probably right for Sexton at the age he is at (to play less). At 26 he was probably playing more than he is now. That is the way it is.
“There are no concerns whatsoever with his (Farrell’s) exhaustion or whatever, no concerns with how he was with England - they looked after him brilliantly last season.
“If you remember in the autumn he just came back for the Australia game, so England did a great job.
“Owen feels as well rested as he has ever felt in the last couple of years. You’d think you would have this discussion post-Lions tour but not after a long summer. He feels good, it seems strange to talk about it in September. He didn’t play in game three, but played pretty well on the weekend.”