26 March 2024

Owen Farrell brings perfect balance that helps drive Saracens on – Mark McCall

26 March 2024

Owen Farrell’s perfect balance of keeping a cool head alongside an intense physical performance can help drive Saracens on through the business end of the season, according to director of rugby Mark McCall.

Farrell – who sat out the Guinness Six Nations to prioritise his mental health – made an impressive return to competitive action in the crushing 52-7 Gallagher Premiership win over Harlequins on Saturday.

The 32-year-old fly-half is set to joins French club Racing 92 in the summer, a move which will make the long-serving England captain ineligible for international selection.

Despite the additional scrutiny, Farrell produced an impressive all-round individual display as Quins were swept aside at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in what was his 250th club appearance.

Saracens sit third in the table and now just three points behind leaders Northampton ahead of their meeting at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.

With a Champions Cup last-16 fixture away at Bordeaux also on the horizon, McCall knows he will need Farrell and all of his key men fully focused to tackle the challenges ahead.

“His performance on Saturday was high level,” McCall said.

“He passed the ball beautifully during the game and managed the game well, but just looked in control of everything.

“He looked like he had time in everything that was doing, so he had that lovely mix, which is the sweet spot for a player where you can be calm and cool, but very physical when you need to be and very intense when you need to be.

“He was able to be intense, to be physical and then come out of that and see when he needed to see and that’s always a sign of a very good player.”

McCall knows Saracens will need a high collective effort when they face Saints and is not reading too much into last week’s 52-21 at Bristol.

“I don’t think anyone should be fooled by what happened on Friday night,” McCall said. “Those kind of things can happen – it has happened to us a couple of times this year.

“They are good all-round and have taken their defence to a whole new level this year.

“They have been building for a long time and have a pile of cohesion in their team and we all know they are one of the best attacking teams in the country.”

Saracens looks set to again be without winger Rotimi Segun, who was a late withdrawal from the side to face Quins because of an Achilles problem.

Maro Itoje continues to be assessed on a knee issue sustained while on England duty, so may be rested.

McCall, meanwhile, confirmed the club had reviewed an incident during the Quins game when the television match official appeared to ignore possible foul play because it was highlighted by a pundit.

Former England international Austin Healey – who was working as part of TNT Sports’ team at the match – spotted a clear-out by Harlequins captain Stephan Lewies, when he appeared to slide on his knees into Farrell.

Player welfare group Progressive Rugby described the decision to ignore possible foul play by TMO Stuart Terheege in his discussions with referee Christophe Ridley as “hugely concerning”.

McCall, though, looked to draw a line under the matter, saying: “We did obviously (review the incident).

“But I haven’t got too much to say about it – other than in an ideal world, I suppose, if there is something that needs to be looked at by the officials, it gets looked at.”

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