Andy Farrell, Eddie Jones See Silver Lining In Saracens Saga

Ireland coach Andy Farrell said Wednesday that he believes Eddie Jones will use the Saracens' salary cap scandal to "galvanize" England in the upcoming Six Nations Championship.

Farrell has a unique perspective given he is also the father of Saracens star and England captain Owen Farrell. 

Premiership champions Saracens accepted relegation to the second-tier Championship last week following breaches of salary cap rules, with seven members of the England squad currently playing for the London club.

"Obviously I spoke to him, I've just had a protein bowl with him," said Andy Farrell when asked by AFP at the Six Nations launch in London if he had talked to Owen since Saracens' demotion was confirmed.

"Honestly, as far as players are concerned, they have a lot of ups and downs that they need to deal with every week. This is something that players need to deal with.

"When you make the change into another environment, I think that's going to be really refreshing," added Farrell, promoted from within the Ireland set-up after Joe Schmidt's tenure ended with a World Cup quarter-final thrashing by New Zealand in Japan in October.

"You become, certainly in national camp, in a little bit of a bubble. I see Eddie using it to galvanize England a little bit as well."

Although World Cup losing finalists England have confirmed that Championship players will remain eligible for Test selection, there is speculation that the likes of fly-half Farrell, fullback Elliot Daly, lock Maro Itoje and hooker Jamie George may have to leave Saracens if they are to remain in contention for next year's British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

Andy Farrell, asked what advice he would give Owen, said, "I've not got an opinion. You understand as a parent it's sensitive anyway. There's a lot of questions still to be asked and answered. I don't think they've got all the facts together of what that future looks like. 

"I'm sure that will come out in the not too distant future and I suppose I'll have an opinion then."

Meanwhile Owen Farrell insisted, "I don't think it will be difficult for me at all. We're excited to get into camp and get on with the rugby. We'll be honest and up-front about it but we'll come through it."

"Best thing"

Jones was in no doubt about the effect of joining up with England would have on the Saracens in the squad ahead of his side's Six Nations opener away to France in Paris on February 2.

"It's a massive opportunity. For the Saracens players, coming to England is the best thing for them," he said.

"They love playing rugby. They love playing for their club and they love playing for England. For the rest of the squad it's an opportunity to get tighter," the Australian added.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, whose squad includes Saracens wing Sean Maitland, said the fall-out from the scandal could yet bolster England.

"Who knows? Sometimes things like this bring a group closer together -- as you saw in the second half at the weekend of the Saracens-Racing game, it brought them closer together," said Townsend.

"A lot of those players will be in the England team and will be going through adversity. Coming up against certain challenges, it can make you stronger, or it can go the other way. We'll see over the next few weeks."

Charles Ollivon, the new France captain, added, "You have to remember that England is the second best team in the world, so I'm not sure whether it is the best time to play against them or not."

by Julian GUYER

© Agence France-Presse

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