Mark McCall rues absence of England stars for Premiership opening rounds

·2-min read

Saracens boss Mark McCall insists the Gallagher Premiership is missing the opportunity to make an impactful start to the season through the absence of England players for the opening rounds.

McCall is deciding which of his international stars are ready to face Harlequins on Saturday having supplied Owen Farrell, Mako and Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Jamie George and Nick Isiekwe to the July tour of Australia.

Apart from Isiekwe, who is out for up five months following an undisclosed surgery, they are all subject to the 10-week stand-down period introduced on player welfare grounds.

Saracens boss Mark McCall has calls to make in selection for Saturday
Saracens boss Mark McCall has calls to make in selection for Saturday (Joe Giddens/PA)

Latitude can be given on a case-by-case basis, as seen last weekend when Ellis Genge and Jack Nowell started for Leicester and Exeter respectively despite being ever-present in the series against the Wallabies.

The majority of England players including Quins half-backs Marcus Smith and Danny Care were not in action in round one, however, and McCall believes beginning the Premiership deeper into September would provide for a better spectacle.

“It’s a pity that the season doesn’t start a little bit later sometimes so that it can get off to a bang with everybody available. Sometimes that’s just not the case,” said McCall, whose side received a bye in round one.

“It’s a difficult balance between having those players available for us and doing the right thing for them. We’ll make sensible decisions around the England players and hopefully we will see a few this weekend.

“Obviously there’s a 10-week rule in place and if you think a player should be exempted from that because of any injuries from the previous year then you can apply to reduce that.”

Saracens fell to Leicester in last season’s Premiership final and their mission for the months ahead is to find the consistency that proved elusive during their return to the top flight.

“The disappointment was around never really quite playing the rugby that we can. And that was all year, not just in the final,” McCall said.

“We’ve always prized consistency – and consistency of attitude and effort, which leads to consistency of performance.

“We felt last year that we were too up and down, not just from match to match but even during matches. We’ve addressed that as a group.”