Mark McCall: Saracens boss claims England stars were key to his side triumphing over Harlequins

Dylan Coetzee
Saracens boss Mark McCall looks on.

Saracens boss Mark McCall has praised his England internationals and labelled the stars as key to his side’s 30-27 win over Harlequins.

McCall defended the flexibility of the stand-down policy that allowed his players to feature, while Quins suffered as a result of star fly-half Marcus Smith being unable to play because of the same rule.

Navigating the stand-down rule

Saracens were allowed to field their England players despite the ruling requiring players involved with the tour of Australia, in theory, to be unavailable for 10 weeks after receiving dispensation from the Rugby Football Union, Eddie Jones, the Rugby Players’ Association and Premiership Rugby.

“We chose to start Maro, Billy and Owen and they were a big part of why we won. Jamie’s and Mako’s experience coming off the bench at this kind of place is good, but it was a good team performance,” McCall said.

“The process is simple really. There’s a 10-week rule in place and you make an application. Not an application – you write an email!

“The parties involved are the player – very importantly – the club, Eddie Jones, PRL and the RPA. I think it’s a really good process, actually.

“The decisions are taken in the best interests of the player and obviously we’re delighted to have our players available.

“Our players haven’t had a big load over the last couple of years when you think about the Championship year when we didn’t play any rugby until March.

“You just look at what they did last season, their minutes and what’s coming. We’ve got a plan for them all for the next two or three months.

“It’s very important that there isn’t a general rule for everybody. It shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all. It should be a case-by case basis. I certainly see it as a sensible process.”

No comment on ruling

Quins boss Tabai Matson refused to be drawn into a comment on the ruling and claimed the club simply operates on the information received.

“All we do is put a plan in and we get the thumbs up or thumbs down,” said Matson.

“We have a discussion and whether we get a thumbs up or thumbs down, they give us a reason. We accept that and move on.

“We knew that it was probably going to create a kerfuffle for our fans and for probably everyone looking in from the outside, but we can only move forward with the group that we have.”

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