Marler thinks there will be no split in England side despite Saracens sanctions

By George Sessions, PA

Joe Marler does not think there will be a split in Eddie Jones’ Six Nations England squad after Saracens accepted sanctions for salary cap breaches and fully expects the club’s players to feature in the tournament next year.

The loosehead prop returned to domestic duty with Harlequins on Monday after his World Cup exploits and could face Bath in the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday.

In the Gallagher Premiership, Harlequins have encountered a tough start, but sit above Saracens, who have just been hit with a 35-point deduction and fined £5.36million for breaching the salary cap during the last three seasons.

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The 2018-19 double-winners have now accepted their punishment after choosing not to appeal against the sanctions and are facing up to the prospect of a relegation battle.

With this in mind, England head coach Jones speculated whether Saracens’ players may decide not to play in the Six Nations, but the Harlequins forward does not feel that will be the case and dismissed suggestions there will be animosity between the group.

“From a specific Sarries point of view, I would be surprised if boys did choose to play for their club based on Sarries having a strong enough and big enough squad to cope anyway, but it is a choice, there is always a choice,” Marler said.

England captain Owen Farrell was one of six Saracens players to start the World Cup final (Ashley Western/PA)
England captain Owen Farrell was one of six Saracens players to start the World Cup final (Ashley Western/PA)

“You come in with the national side, put your club hat to one side and you all buy into playing for England.

“If I go back into the group, there might be a little bit more banter. I’ve given them (Saracens players) a bit about it over the last four or five years.

“It’ll be put to one side. I don’t think any bridges will need to be built there.

“I’ve teased them about it for the last few years. They’ve teased me about my s*** hair, how bad we’ve been here (Harlequins) in the past, my breath, my wonky nose.

“Let’s say you’re a Sarries player and I’m me. You go into the England camp and this has come out. I come here and go, ‘how about the old salary cap stuff?’. It’s, ‘yeah, gutted.’ How much more do you think we need to do?

“We’ve got to play for England. We’ve got a task to try and win the Six Nations. Why would I get caught up about constantly going on about the differences there? It’s been dealt with.

“You can’t change the past. It’s been dealt with. I wouldn’t want to carry something on if it had been dealt with.”

Paul Gustard was assistant coach and defence coach at Saracens during an eight-year period after retiring from playing in 2008 (John Walton/PA)
Paul Gustard was assistant coach and defence coach at Saracens during an eight-year period after retiring from playing in 2008 (John Walton/PA)

Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard spent two years playing for Saracens before joining the coaching set-up in 2008 and remained there until 2016.

The 43-year-old believes the Allianz Park club are “strong enough” to cope without their England players during the Six Nations and insisted those who choose club over country would effectively retire from international rugby.

Gustard said: “It’s a big thing to say, ‘I’m not going to play in the Six Nations because of something that a club has done’ or for a club to ask you to do.

“I think that club’s strong enough with good characters, good coaching staff and exceptional players that they’ll find a way to come through it somehow.”

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