Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Tyrone Howe: Biggest test waiting just around the corner for McCall

It is always interesting to track the progress of Ulster Rugby’s exiles. At Saracens, Mark McCall, appears to be relishing the challenge and he has been joined by former Ulster fitness and conditioning coach Phil Morrow after the latter’s involvement with Ireland at the World Cup.

Despite the fact that many of the South Africans may need to call in an interpreter for Phil, when he gets his dander up, this is another quality off-the-field signing for the club.

While Sarries have been criticised for a lack of creativity, they are incredibly difficult to beat, and it is hard to argue with their results. While they currently lie second in the Aviva Premiership, their credentials will be tested more than ever over the next two months.

It has always seemed to be Leicester Tigers that suffer most with international call-ups, while more recently Northampton Saints have their fair share of absentees.

It does make me smile, then, that Saracens’ owner Nigel Wray is criticising the timing of the tournament and the fact that it interferes with the domestic season. Might this have anything to do with the fact that Saracens are about to lose some of their top players to the England squad due to be announced by interim coach Stuart Lancaster?

In all likelihood, Messrs Hodgson, Barritt, Stevens, and wonderkind Owen Farrell will all be involved in the England 22. This is clearly a case of Sarries being victims of their own success, but this is exactly what you aspire for – international recognition for your players. Mark McCall now faces his own juggling act.