Saracens are facing up to a potential player exodus after the worst-kept secret in the Premiership was confirmed with the announcement the London club are to be relegated for breaching salary-cap regulations.
The London club were docked 35 points and fined £5.36million in November for flouting the rules in each of the past three seasons, and currently sit bottom of the Premiership.
However, after talks between Premiership Rugby and Saracens in the aftermath of the initial punishment, the club will now drop down to the Championship for 2020-21.
It throws up huge doubts over the future of some of the Premiership’s biggest names, who have all tasted success with Saracens over the club’s recent period of dominance – including a domestic and European double last term.
Six Saracens players started in England’s Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa – including captain Owen Farrell – while Vincent Koch featured for the Springboks in that match.
Meanwhile, Liam Williams, a regular for Wales in the tournament, has already started the departures, having agreed to rejoin Scarlets at the end of the season.
Following the news of Saracens’ impending relegation to the second tier, we take a look at the star names who seem destined to become available.
4 – Maro Itoje won 11 turnovers at this year’s Rugby World Cup, almost twice as many as any other player (5 players won 6), while he also hit the most rucks of any player (221). Fetcher. pic.twitter.com/4Z4DBNCaX5
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) November 4, 2019
Sure to be in demand is England skipper Farrell has spent his entire senior career with Saracens, having made his debut aged 17 in 2008, becoming – at the time – the youngest player to appear in an English professional rugby union match. He has gone on to become one of the world’s best players, winning the Six Nations twice with England as well as five Premiership titles and three Champions Cups with Saracens.
Having won four Premierships and three European Champions Cups at club level by the age of 25, Maro Itoje is expected to be a man in demand. The British and Irish Lion, who plays lock or blindside flanker, should still have his best years ahead of him but is already an established international player, having won two Six Nations trophies and helped England to the World Cup final last year as part of his 34 caps. He has spent his whole professional career at Saracens.
The elder Vunipola brother joined up with Saracens from Bristol in 2011 and has made 110 appearances, scoring 15 tries. He made his England debut in 2012 against Fiji and has been a key player for club and country ever since.
Two years after his sibling had signed for Saracens, Billy Vunipola followed suit. He has played in 71 Premiership matches for Sarries, with 15 tries to his name and has featured in just 11 defeats. Internationally, he has made 51 Test appearances for England.
The versatile back – who has featured in 42 Tests for England – only joined Saracens from Wasps in 2019 ahead of the current Premiership season. He has scored 13 tries for England and one in four Premiership appearances so far for Saracens.
Like Farrell, George came through the ranks at Saracens and made his first-team debut just a year after the England captain. He has made over 150 Premiership appearances for the club, starting 83 times and accumulating 125 points from 25 tries. At 29, it seems unlikely the hooker will be wishing to drop into the Championship.
Signed in 2016, Koch has scored three top-flight tries during his time with Saracens, making 48 Premiership appearances in total. The prop did not start for South Africa in November’s World Cup showdown in Japan, though came on early in the second half to help the Springboks to a 32-12 victory.
Former Australia lock Skelton was linked with a move back to the southern hemisphere last year before signing a new deal. He has scored three tries for Saracens since joining, and made 18 Test appearances for the Wallabies between 2014 and 2016.
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