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Former Ulster coach McCall would face 'huge call' if England approach


Successful coach: Bangor’s Mark McCall (left, with Owen Farrell) won his seventh major honour at Saracens at the weekend
Successful coach: Bangor’s Mark McCall (left, with Owen Farrell) won his seventh major honour at Saracens at the weekend
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster native Mark McCall has said it would be a "huge call" to walk away from Saracens amid continued links with the England job.

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The 51-year-old Bangor man has enjoyed unprecedented success at the London club and on Saturday saw his side become only the second club to win a second league and European double with victory over Exeter in the Premiership final.

Eddie Jones is contracted to the RFU until 2021 but there is a break clause in his contract should England not make the semi-finals at the World Cup in Japan this year.

Give his trophy-laden spell in the country's domestic game, McCall is being talked of as a natural successor, but says it would be tough to leave the dynasty he has created in west London.

"Sometimes you have got to pinch yourself about what we are going through," he said.

"I feel incredibly lucky to be part of what this club has been doing. All the staff and the players feel that way. To walk away from that would be a huge call."

Saracens' resolve was particularly tested on Saturday with Exeter leading by 11 points in the second half. The fight shown by his side had McCall labelling the seventh major honour of his tenure as "special".

He said: "It was incredibly tough. We were second best at everything in the 20 minutes before half-time and Exeter were phenomenal. We couldn't control them.

"We weren't great at the start of the second half, either. We found a way, but I'm not sure how we did. It feels quite special, this one."

Meanwhile, at McCall's old club Ulster, nine players on Academy deals yesterday had their contracts upgraded.

Angus Curtis and Tom O'Toole, who were upgraded to development contracts during last season have now signed their first senior deals with Michael Lowry and Eric O'Sullivan also rewarded with full contracts after making big contributions in their debut seasons.

O'Sullivan made his first senior appearance in the first game of last season against Scarlets but quickly became a mainstay in the side and by season's end he was the starting loosehead.

In all, he missed only four games and he'll do battle with new signing Jack McGrath - and holdovers Andy Warwick and Kyle McCall - for minutes next season.

Lowry put an injury-riddled first year in the system behind him to become a real option at full-back for Dan McFarland's side, making 17 appearences in all and scoring two tries.

In addition, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Angus Kernohan, Zack McCall and Marcus Rea have all inked development deals.

All but McCall made their debut in 2018/19, and Kernohan will today play against England for the Ireland Under-20s at the World Championships.

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