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Saracens to continue team-bonding trips despite Billy Vunipola incident

<span>Billy Vunipola with Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall, who stresses the importance of ‘support and help’ for players who make mistakes. </span><span>Photograph: Matt Impey/Shutterstock</span>
Billy Vunipola with Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall, who stresses the importance of ‘support and help’ for players who make mistakes. Photograph: Matt Impey/Shutterstock

Saracens intend to continue their team-bonding social trips, with Mark McCall insisting the recent excursion to Mallorca was “really enjoyable” despite Billy Vunipola’s arrest.

McCall insisted that as far as Saracens are concerned “the case is closed” over Vunipola, who was twice stunned with a taser and arrested in Palma during a recent squad trip after a victory over Bath, then fined €240 (£205) by an express trial for resisting the law.

The 31-year-old issued a public apology and has since explained that he has a problem “knowing when to stop” drinking, with McCall stressing the importance of “support and help” rather than punishing indiscretions.

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The Saracens director of rugby reflected positively on the trip, ­highlighting the beneficial impact they can have. In the past Saracens have embarked on mid-season trips to Barcelona, the ski slopes of St Anton and ­a pre-season jaunt to Bermuda and, asked if the Vunipola incident would lead to a rethink, McCall said: “I don’t think so, no. It was a really enjoyable, well organised trip away together after a tough game against Bath. With ­nothing the following weekend, it was an opportunity for us to ­connect in a ­different way and I am glad we did it.

“Just that weekend as a whole to travel down to the Rec which is a really hard place to go and get a result, which obviously kickstarted what turned out to be a really ­positive weekend for the group to spend some quality time together away from training. That’s something that the players look forward to doing as it has been part of what we have done for a long time.

“To be honest, I think other clubs are doing it as well. We’re just trying to connect the group a little bit more deeply than you can sometimes get in your day-to-day work. It was a really positive couple of days despite what happened.”

McCall stressed that it had been a “normal week” for the club after their return and while the Rugby Football Union could still charge Vunipola, the No 8 is considered available for selection against Bristol on Saturday.

“The case is closed as far as we are concerned and we just get on with the rugby now,” added McCall. “The only thing that I would add to what the club has said is that when someone does something wrong, the first reaction doesn’t always have to be to punish that person. Sometimes you’ve got to understand why what happened happened, to support and help. It doesn’t always have to be a punishment.

“I just think we understand that people are human, and people make mistakes. Of course there’s a line, and there are things that you can’t condone. But more often than not if it’s appropriate then we would want to give people second chances, maybe even sometimes third chances if it’s clear that they’re remorseful, that they take ownership of it.”

Asked how they expected Vunipola, who is set to leave Saracens for Montpellier at the end of the season, to respond, McCall said: “Just what he always does, which is to give his all to his teammates.”