Saracens planning without Farrell for Leinster cup tie
Outside-half faces ban after red card for reckless tackle Panel could sideline England captain for 10 games or more
Saracens are resigned to losing Owen Farrell for their Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster.
The England captain faces a disciplinary hearing tonight for his high tackle on Wasps’ Charlie Farrell was sent off in the 61st minute of Saracens’ 28-18 defeat on Saturday after a reckless swinging-arm tackle made contact with Atkinson’s head.
At best, the panel would deem it a mid-level offence with an entry point of a six-game ban, which is likely to be halved on account of his relatively clean disciplinary record and instant display of contrition.
So with Saracens facing two Premiership matches, away to Sale tomorrow and at home to Exeter on
Sunday, Mark McCall, the director of rugby, said Farrell was almost certain to miss their trip to Dublin on Saturday week.
“I think we can safely assume that Owen won’t be available and we will plan as such,” McCall said. “He’s incredibly regretful. You saw him on the touchline and he waited for Charlie to get off the field. He was really concerned for him.”
Should the independent panel upgrade his red card to a high-level offence, which has an entry point of 10 games, Farrell could miss the start of England’s autumn matches, including the Six Nations finale against Italy on Oct 31.
McCall has not sought to address Farrell’s technique with him and pointed to his relatively blemish-free record. “As far as I know, this is his first red in 201 games for us,” McCall said. “It speaks of a pretty good disciplinary record.”
Farrell is not Saracens’ only concern for Leinster, against whom McCall says his team will be “massive underdogs”. Mako Vunipola has been suffering with back spasms and is unlikely to play against Sale.
“It is lingering longer than we hoped,” McCall said. “We will make a decision later in the week about whether he is fit to play against Exeter.” McCall confirmed that Farrell would still be involved in helping the team prepare for the Leinster showdown, “using his intellect and rugby brain”. The alternatives at fly-half are full-back Alex Goode or 20-year-old Manu Vunipola, although McCall said that choice would be influenced by who is available in the centres, with Duncan Taylor due to return tomorrow. “How Duncan does will be important,” McCall said. “Every challenge Manu has faced over these eight or nine months has prepared him for moments like this. He will be in our 23-man squad and we think he is ready.”
Regretful: Owen Farrell was sent off against Wasps for a high tackle