Saracens ruling gives everyone else "a bit of hope" - Jerry Flannery
Saracens cheated. Everyone else paid.
The news of Saracens 35 point deduction and £5.36 million fine sent shockwaves around the rugby world yesterday. The (unlikely) prospect of relegation and (likely) result of no European rugby next season for the reigning Champions Cup holders is the biggest scandal to hit English rugby since the "bloodgate" incident rocked Harlequins to the core.
Saracens were found to have broken the salary cap in place in the English Premiership, and as a result questions are now being asked about the legitimacy of their domestic and European titles in the last few years. Irish clubs had an interest in proceedings yesterday, considering Saracens beat Leinster in the Champions Cup final this year as well as knocking Munster out in the last four stage in 2 of the last 3 seasons.
Speaking on The JOEpan Rugby Show this week, Munster coach at the time Jerry Flannery revealed his frustrations in facing a team like Saracens;
"The ramifications for European Rugby are massive here, because I know from my time competing against Saracens that they are a phenomenal club. They have great coaches, if you speak to any player who's been through the Saracens system they can't speak highly enough of the place, but it's frustrating when you play them and you lose like I've lost to them twice. They're a top class team but you would wonder, we used to question how were they able to get the starting loosehead for the British and Irish Lions, the starting hooker for the British and Irish Lions, have the tighthead from the Boks Vincent Koch, have the two English locks who were on the British and Irish Lions tour, Maro Itoje and George Kruis, Billy Vunipola, probably England's best forward, they had Schalk Burger on the bench when we played last time, having Ben Spencer there the sub scrum-half for England in the final, having Owen Farrell, Brad Barrett, (Alex) Lewington who was very unlucky not to make the squad, Liam Williams the British and Irish Lions 15, Elliot Daly the English 15 and then you've got Alex Goode in there as well. It's a phenomenal squad, and you wonder... Because as a coach you're trying to see how you build your roster and you know players' wages are going one way so... You have to have Financial Fair Play, through the league, and I suppose for the likes of Exeter who go and sign Stuart Hogg but then they have to release Santiago Cordero as a result to stay within the salary cap, it's very frustrating for them."
Saracens have refused to accept the ruling, and their inevitable appeal means that all punishments are on ice for the time being. Considering the fact that the points deduction, should it be implemented, would all but rule Sarries out of the running for European qualification via the Premiership, Flannery questioned whether they can now have two separate squads and focus on winning the Champions Cup with one;
"What will the domino effect from this be? If for instance the 35 points is upheld, and the 5 million pound fine, I'm sure they have enough wealthy people in the club that they can find the money for that... But, if they're in breach of the salary cap now, they must still be in breach of the salary cap, right this season. So when they have all their players return, they'll still have the best squad in Europe if not World Rugby. Will they have to get rid of some of these players, or can they have a group that plays... Because, if they're going to be fined 35 points, or deducted 35 points, then they're not going to win the Premiership, they probably won't qualify for Europe. So then the only way they can get back into Europe the following year is by winning the European Cup, which they're well capable of... Looking at the quality that's there in the Saracens team, that's the benchmark that everyone else is working to. So I suppose, then to learn that that roster has been potentially assembled illegally, or not within the rules, is... I suppose it's giving everyone else a little bit of hope, but we don't know what way this is going to happen. Can Saracens still keep their roster and just use certain players in Europe where there is no salary cap and can they have a second squad for the Premiership? I don't know."
For the full chat on the Saracens fallout, as well as a review of the Rugby World Cup Final between England and South Africa, check out Episode 13 of The JOEpan Rugby Show in the link below: