Following Saracens breach of the salary cap regulations, leaving them with over £5m in fines and being docked 35 points things were always going to be tough but the extent of their downfall is coming to the fore now.
Having breached the £7m salary cap rule in each of the last three seasons, Sarries were hit with their punishments, but in recent days interim chief executive of the club Edward Grtiffiths admitted that they may have to offload players and reduce wages to comply with the rules for this season.
It remains unclear if that move will be fast-forwarded but when asked about the situation director of rugby Mark McCall confirmed there is a real chance that Williams may have played his final game for the club.
“I’d say there is a possibility. It was Liam’s decision first up that he was going to go back to the Scarlets, back to Wales, and that was for family reasons. We understood that completely and we don’t regret, and he doesn’t regret, him coming to Saracens. We don’t regret bringing him to Saracens, he has been brilliant. He was always going to go back to Wales regardless of the salary cap decision,” he said.
However, Williams has not featured for Saracens this season after picking up a long-term injury at the Rugby World Cup with Wales and they have plenty of cover for his position with the likes of Elliot Daly on the books.
Following his comments on Williams McCall admitted that other players may follow him out of the club, but that those players would more than likely be ones entering the latter stages of their contracts or their careers.
“We’ve got to make sure we do anything that needs to be done really well, and I am sure we will. We are hoping it won’t be too cold. If anything has to happen it will be to players who will be coming towards the end of their careers or their contract ends in four months’ time. Ideally that’s what would happen and we need to make sure those players leave the club amicably and on good terms, not on bad terms. I am really desperate for that to be the case because they have given the club a lot in the time they have been here. It is tricky, of course it is tricky, and it is not ideal but if something needs to be done, it needs to be done and we will do it as well as we can,” he added.
It is believed that players such as Juan Figallo, Calum Clark and Michael Rhodes could also leave before the end of the current campaign to free up financial space.
While star backs Brad Barritt and Richard Wigglesworth appear set for departure come the end of the current season in order to cut down the wage bill even further again.
At this moment in time there are no worries of any of the club’s English internationals being cut loose meaning the likes of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, George Kruis and both Billy and Mako Vunipola will remain.
However, with Saracens fighting for survival in the Premiership and facing a battle to progress to the Champions Cup knock-out stages, only time will tell if their stars will stay or go as a lack of European rugby could push them away.
Ulster name team for Northampton Quarter-Final trip
Michael Lowry is named to start at full-back, and is joined in the back three by Jacob Stockdale and Robert Baloucoune. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume will form the midfield duo, and Billy Burns and John Cooney are the starting half-backs.
In the front row, Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring and Marty Moore retain their starting berths. Alan O’Connor will partner Kieran Treadwell in the second row. Last week’s Player of the Match, Sean Reidy, will start at blindside flanker, with Jordi Murphy skippering the team at openside and Nick Timoney at Number Eight.
John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea and Greg Jones will provide the forward reinforcements from the bench, with Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan and Ethan McIlroy named as the back line options.
Ulster team to play Northampton Saints, Challenge Cup Quarter-Final, Saturday 10 April at Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off 8pm, live on BT Sport):
(15-9) Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy (Capt.), Nick Timoney.
Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea, Greg Jones, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy.
Big names miss out for Ulster
The back line sees just one change from the side that played Toulouse last Friday. Michael Lowry, Jacob Stockdale and Matt Faddes all retain their positions in the back three. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume are the starting midfield duo. Billy Burns returns at fly-half and will captain the side; he will partner John Cooney at scrum-half.
The front row remains unchanged for this game. Rob Herring is named at hooker, with Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore packing down at loosehead and tighthead prop. Alan O’Connor will partner with his brother David – who will make his first Heineken Champions Cup start with Sam Carter missing out through concussion. Sean Reidy has been selected at blindside, with Jordi Murphy returning at openside. Nick Timoney comes in to start at Number Eight to replace the injured Marcel Coetzee.
John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea, and Greg Jones are the forward bench options. Academy player, Ethan McIlroy could make his European debut if called upon from the bench, and is named alongside Alby Mathewson and Ian Madigan in the back line replacements.
Ulster team to play Gloucester, Heineken Champions Cup Round 2, Saturday 19 December 2020 at Kingsholm Stadium, kick-off 3.15pm, live on BT Sport / beIN Sport:
(15-9) Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns (Capt.), John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, David O’Connor, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea, Greg Jones, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy.
Ulster name strong side to face Toulouse
In the back three, Jacob Stockdale returns from international duty to the left wing, joining Michael Lowry at full-back and Matt Faddes on the right wing. In midfield, Stuart McCloskey also returns from the Ireland squad to partner with James Hume. Ian Madigan has been named at fly-half alongside John Cooney at scrum-half.
Having made his international debut against Scotland last week, Eric O’Sullivan, comes in to take the starting berth at loosehead prop. Rob Herring also returns from Ireland duties and is named at hooker, with Marty Moore retaining his position at tighthead. Alan O’Connor will partner with Sam Carter, who will lead the side from the second row. Sean Reidy and Jordi Murphy are named at blindside and openside, with Marcell Coetzee completing the pack at Number Eight.
John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, and Matty Rea provide the forward options, with Alby Mathewson, Stewart Moore and Craig Gilroy offering back line cover from the bench.
Ulster team to play Toulouse, Heineken Champions Cup Round 1, Friday 11 December 2020 at Kingspan Stadium, kick-off 8pm, live on BT Sport / beIN Sport:
(15-9) Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Ian Madigan, John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (Capt.), Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Matty Rea, Alby Mathewson, Stewart Moore, Craig Gilroy.
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