Saracens boss: ‘Everybody would want Farrell’ amid Racing links

Saracens’ director of rugby refused to drawn on reports that his captain could join Racing 92, but can “understand” pull of France for long-serving players; Farrell played as Saracens suffered third defeat in four, this time to Leicester, while Northampton went top after epic fightback

Last Updated: 06/01/24 7:46pm

A young fan with a message for Owen Farrell at Saracens' match against Leicester
A young fan with a message for Owen Farrell at Saracens’ match against Leicester

Saracens boss Mark McCall says “everybody would want” Owen Farrell in their side, with Racing 92 believed to be in talks to sign the England captain.

It is understood that Racing, the six-time French champions, are in discussions to take Farrell to Paris for the start of next season in a move that would likely preclude him from playing for England for the length of any deal with the Top 14 side.

After reports in France on Friday had strongly suggested Farrell was on the verge of signing a two-year contract, Racing issued a statement to deny that any deal had been struck for the fly-half, although did not deny that they were in discussions to do so.

Asked about the reports for the first time on Saturday, both before and after Saracens’ 19-10 defeat at Leicester in which Farrell played, McCall said he would not be drawn on “speculation”.

But he did make clear: “I think having Owen Farrell in your team is what everybody would want.”

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Sky Sports News’ James Cole reports that Racing 92 are in talks to sign England captain Owen Farrell, although a deal is yet to be agreed.
Sky Sports News’ James Cole reports that Racing 92 are in talks to sign England captain Owen Farrell, although a deal is yet to be agreed.

McCall added: “It’s just not fair on anyone to talk about something that is speculation.

“Until there’s something to talk about, we’re not going to talk about it.”

McCall, Saracens’ director of rugby, did however say he could understand why long-serving players, of which Farrell is one, would want to experience something different later in their careers.

Speaking to the BBC, McCall said: “Having stepped down from England, if he decided him and his family want a new experience elsewhere, who could blame him.

“What I can say is Owen has given his life to our club, he’s been there since he was 16 years old, maybe before that. He’s been an incredible player, leader and person at the club for so long.”

Asked ahead of the match if he could understand why some players were heading to France from the Premiership, McCall told TNT Sports: “I think there’s always two different cases. Obviously, I think there’s real need to keep the young talent playing in the Premiership and the rule that means you’ve got to play for England by being in the Premiership is a really important rule, I think.

“I can understand when players have had long careers at one club why they would want to experience something different.”

Farrell, 32, has been with Saracens since 2008, making his debut as a 17-year-old. His contract expires at the end of the current 2023/24 Premiership campaign.

He is currently taking a break from international rugby union after deciding to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being, informing England head coach Steve Borthwick late last year he would be unavailable for the upcoming Six Nations campaign.

Farrell-led Saracens lose again at Leicester

Along with his team-mates, Farrell endured a difficult afternoon in the East Midlands with mistakes by the skipper leading to two of Leicester’s three tries.

It produced Saracens’ fifth Premiership defeat of the season – equalling their entire total of losses for their 2022-23 campaign – and registered a third defeat in four matches in the competition.

“Owen went well. Like he always does, he led from the front and he had a good game. He’s very good at putting distraction to one side and we saw that again here,” McCall said.

“We don’t want to be losing matches, obviously. We want to play better than we’re playing. We haven’t quite had the season that we want – that’s obvious too.”

Leicester Tigers' Dan Kelly dives in to score the first try against Saracens
Leicester Tigers’ Dan Kelly dives in to score the first try against Saracens

Leicester were impressive with commitment and intelligence stamped all over a hard-fought win that keeps them in seventh place but hints at better things ahead.

“We felt pretty comfortable and came away with a good four points,” Tigers head coach Dan McKellar said.

“When teams come here they know it’s going to be a physical battle and that’s what we wanted to give Saracens. They’re a quality side so we’re pleased.”

Northampton return to Premiership summit after stunning comeback win

Northampton Saints' Ollie Sleighholme runs in their second try in their comeback win
Northampton Saints’ Ollie Sleighholme runs in their second try in their comeback win

Northampton rugby director Phil Dowson struggled to sum up a remarkable Gallagher Premiership encounter against Exeter after his team fought back to win 42-36 at Sandy Park.

Saints returned to the Premiership summit in breathtaking fashion as centre Rory Hutchinson’s try with the clock in the red secured an unlikely win.

They trailed 26-0 after just 23 minutes, but a spectacular recovery that included three tries for wing Ollie Sleightholme took Saints above Harlequins and top of the table.

“It was not the way we planned it!” Dowson said.

“I am not sure if I am able to sum it up. We spoke during the week about how good they (Exeter) are straight out of the blocks, especially at home.

“They score more tries in the first 10 minutes than anyone else. We talked about starting fast – we didn’t – and 26-0 down was as poor as we have been.

“But those two tries we scored just before the break really gave us at least equilibrium to sort of regroup at half-time and get to a point where we could get back into the game.

“Had it been 26-0 at half-time you are talking about a mountain to climb, whereas 26-14 at least you are saying ‘we’ve hurt them and you can create some belief around it’.”

Key to Saints’ transformation were strong second-half appearances off the bench by England pair Alex Mitchell and Tommy Freeman.

Saints’ victory made it seven games unbeaten and ended Exeter’s run of 23 home matches without defeat in all competitions.

There were also tries for skipper George Furbank and scrum-half Callum Braley, with Fin Smith kicking six conversions in a bonus-point triumph.

Chiefs were rampant early on as flanker Jacques Vermeulen touched down twice, and there were also scores from scrum-half Stu Townsend, wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and replacement Rusi Tuima, with Henry Slade booting four conversions and a penalty.

But despite defeat, Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter reacted in upbeat fashion after what was an all-time Premiership classic.

Baxter said: “We know Northampton are a good side, we knew it would be a tough challenge and I’ve just said to the lads I couldn’t be prouder of them than I am now.

“Over the 80 minutes, did we do some good things? Yes, we did. I am not going to criticise the players, because we couldn’t have turned up any better than we did.

“It was an incredible game of Premiership rugby, and I am far from overwhelmed by today’s result or feeling too disappointed by it.”

Source : Sky Sports