Saturday 15 December 2018

Saracens sweating over the availability of Owen Farrell for Leinster showdown

Saracens' Owen Farrell Photo: Henry Browne/Getty Images
Saracens' Owen Farrell Photo: Henry Browne/Getty Images
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said Maro Itoje looked "full of energy" as he delivered a standout performance in his side's 24-11 win over Harlequins.

The England international was criticised for looking "out on his feet" by Clive Woodward, after starting all five NatWest 6 Nations games in a disappointing championship.

However, the 23-year-old delivered the perfect riposte as he scored Saracens' second try with a bulldozing run through the Quins defence, fending off four players en route.

McCall praised his star lock and despite being frustrated with the stop-start nature of the first Aviva Premiership match at the London Stadium, he said his side are in a strong position in the play-off race with four games to go.

"Maro was brilliant and looked like he was full of energy, full of life and he was deservedly man of the match," he said.

"It will give him a lot of confidence going into next weekend, but his performance wasn't a surprise to us.

"Sometimes when people tell you that you look tired then you can feel tired, but Maro is not that kind of individual and I think he proved that."

McCall confirmed that Owen Farrell (quadricep) and George Kruis (back) are both touch-and-go to make Saracens' Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster next weekend.

"We hope he will be [fit] but there’s no guarantee," McCall added

"He’s got a quad injury, it’s a muscle injury and you never really know with these things.

"George Kruis has got a back injury, it is what it is and we’ll deal with what we have to do next week."

But in Farrell's absence, Alex Lozowski impressed against Quins as he kicked 14 of his side's points, with Liam Williams scoring Saracens' other try.

When asked about what sort of advert the game was for the Premiership, McCall said: "There were a lot of penalties, which no one could understand and a lot of decisions no one could understand, but we ultimately made some errors ourselves and gave away some soft penalties."

Quins director of rugby John Kingston felt his side had Saracens on the back foot going into the final quarter, but said they were just unable to deliver the "knockout blow".

He said: "We gave them two soft tries, you lose a lineout on the halfway line and then you find yourself conceding a try 10 seconds later after one phase, that shouldn't be happening.

"The second one was even softer and when you're playing at this level, you can't be gifting people tries as soft as that.

"We got right on the front foot and played some good rugby in the second half and, I don't mean this in any way disrespectfully, but I thought we had Saracens worried actually.

"With 15 minutes to go, I thought they were teetering, but we just weren't accurate enough in the opportunities that we had to serve a knockout blow."

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