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Elliot Daly credits Eddie Jones and pub meeting for Saracens’ return to top

Elliot Daly revealed a meeting in a pub in St Albans helped Saracens start their long journey towards another Twickenham final (Kieran Cleeves/PA)
Elliot Daly revealed a meeting in a pub in St Albans helped Saracens start their long journey towards another Twickenham final (Kieran Cleeves/PA)

Elliot Daly has revealed a meeting between Saracens’ senior players at a pub in St Albans was the start of their journey to another Gallagher Premiership final.

Mark McCall’s side are looking to become English champions for a sixth time at Twickenham on Saturday when they take on Leicester.

Leicester were the side to benefit from Sarries being relegated for repeated salary cap breaches in 2020 with an eventual 70-point deduction, which meant Tigers did not come bottom of the table and go down.

It was a tumultuous time for Saracens, who first discovered they had breached Premiership salary cap rules in November 2019 but only found out they would suffer relegation months later in January.

Daly reflected on how a meeting in the Wicked Lady pub resulted in the club’s senior players committing to staying and the journey back to the top flight in essence started there.

“It was a very weird and difficult time because there was a lot of murmuring about what will happen and how many points would be deducted,” the England international explained.

“We got deducted points and we were going to stay up so they deducted us more points which was what we had to take along the way so it wasn’t something set, it carried on pretty much for the whole season.

“We didn’t really know until we played Racing at home and that was the week we were told we were getting relegated no matter what happens.

“I think for us, I remember meeting in a pub down the road when it all started kicking off and all the senior players were there. We just came back from something, either the Autumn or the Six Nations.

Saracens beat Harlequins to reach the final
Saracens beat Harlequins to reach the final (Mark Pain/PA)

“We sat in the room and we didn’t know what to say at the start because it was a very difficult situation to be able to deal with but we realised that we needed to get the club back to where it belonged and what the best way of doing that was but obviously we still wanted to play for England. That was a hard chat with everyone.”

Eddie Jones proved a key outside influence for Saracens with the England head coach promising to continue selecting players even if they were in the Championship.

It eventually contributed towards internationals Owen Farrell, Daly, Maro Itoje, Jamie George and Mako Vunipola all signing new deals with Sarries in the summer of 2020 to confirm they would stick around despite dropping out of the Premiership.

McCall’s side would only spend one season in the second tier after winning their play-off final against Ealing and, after beating rivals Harlequins in last weekend’s semi-final, the club is on the verge of being English champions for a sixth time in the last 11 years.

Daly added: “I think Eddie was actually brilliant when that all came out with us. Mark McCall spoke to him and said ‘what is the craic (sic) here, do they need to go somewhere else for you to pick them?’

“And he basically said he will watch the games, and we didn’t have many games, but he said if we are performing to the level then we will be in camp and be in contention. It was what we needed to hear at that point.

“It was one of those things where we didn’t know what to do or where to be guided so after that conversation it was pretty obvious we all would stay.

“Obviously Nick (Tompkins) had to go, Ben Earl and Max (Malins) because they wanted to play for England so needed to play week in, week out and not be in a season where we didn’t know where our next game is and how many games there will be.

“That was the most difficult thing but after that chat I thought it was brilliant how we all bought in and said ‘that’s it, we will stay here and get us back up then go for it’.”

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