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Sarries have full faith in young Vunipola to replace Farrell: McCall

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Manu Vunipola has stood tall when needed

Manu Vunipola has stood tall when needed

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Manu Vunipola has stood tall when needed

Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall has praised Manu Vunipola, with the young fly-half an option to replace the suspended Owen Farrell for the huge European quarter-final at Leinster on Saturday.

England captain Farrell is absent for the Champions Cup holders after being issued with a five-match ban for a dangerous tackle against Wasps earlier in the month.

It has put Sarries on the back foot even more for the last-eight clash, which is a repeat of the 2019 final.

Farrell was instrumental in the victory last year but will have a watching brief at the Aviva Stadium and it means either Alex Goode or Vunipola, the cousin of England internationals Billy and Mako, will play at 10.

"We have two choices," said Bangor man McCall, a former head coach of Ulster.

"Move Goodey up and play him at fly-half and Elliott (Daly) to full-back or stick Manu in there and keep Goodey where he is.

"We will make that decision later on."

It has been a tumultuous season for Saracens, with the club handed a hefty fine and docked 35 points in November for repeated salary cap breaches before they were automatically relegated from the Gallagher Premiership in January.

A rare bright spot has been the development of fly-half Vunipola, who starred to help a young XV beat an equally inexperienced Exeter on Sunday.

He also caught the eye of his Director of Rugby when he kicked Saracens to victory at Gloucester in November, days after the double winners had first been punished for several salary cap breaches.

McCall added: "Manu has certainly shown all year that any time we've given him a new challenge, he has stood up to that challenge.

"One that springs to mind the most is the game down at Kingsholm. It was a few days after the original decision and quite an emotional occasion.

"As a young player, he handled that. It is not the easiest place to play as a young fly-half and he handled himself very well that day.

"All season he has continued to gain these experiences.

"He has played Racing 92 away, Munster away and he was involved in the Ospreys game as well.

"He has accumulated a lot of experience this year and we have a lot of faith in Manu."

Belfast Telegraph