The short window between last weekend’s Rugby World Cup Final and the start of the Heineken Champions Cup in just eight days time allows little time to draw breath for players and fans.
The nature of sport though is that it keeps rolling and Johnny Sexton admitted yesterday that he can’t wait to get back into a game even if that is primarily to give him something else to think about other than reflecting on the disappointment that Ireland experienced in Japan.
Yesterday’s launch of the 25th Year of the leading European tournament was the first opportunity for media to get to speak to Sexton. He handled his duties with good grace and you can see the results across the range of Irish media today.
Saracens, who beat Sexton’s Leinster in last year’s Final did not turn up but were the primary topic of conversation for almost everyone else.
Their 35 point deduction for the current season, together with a #5.36 million fine for breaches of the Salary Cap in place at Premiership Rugby raised much of the heat in yesterday’s press briefings with players and managers.
There was little sympathy for the Champions, who maintain their innocence and are to appeal the sanctions.
Former England captain Chris Robshaw was forthright in calling it cheating while Geordan Murphy at Leicester said that he would welcome a review of all finances at Premiership Clubs.
The Saracens Issue will ultimately come down to technicalities. Clubs are allowed to spend £7 million on salaries with two players allowed outside of the counting and other differences around the edges relating to injury cover and the fielding of players that the club has developed through its own systems.
Saracens are alleged to have circumvented the cap on the reward for players by investing in companies that were co-owned by club owner Nigel Wray and a number of star players including Owen Farrell.
Wray said in a statement that “This is absolutely devastating for everyone associated with this amazing group of players, staff, partners and fans. It has been acknowledged by the Panel that we never deliberately sought to mislead anyone or breach the cap and that’s why it feels like the rug is being completely pulled out from under our feet. We will appeal all the findings.”
That appeal has now been confirmed but the scandal has soured the start of this phase of the domestic season.
Saracens get their Heineken Champions’ Cup campaign underway against Racing 92 on Sunday 17th November and will travel to Thomond Park to face Munster Rugby on Saturday, 7th December.
Image Credit EPCR