Saracens boss Mark McCall is thinking about starting young out-half Manu Vunipola in Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster.
In the wake of Owen Farrell’s red card last week that led to a five-game suspension, former Ulster supremo McCall has a decision to make in terms of who replaces the England star at no 10.
“We’ve got two choices – to move Goodey (Alex Goode) up to fly-half and play Elliot (Daly) at full-back, or stick Manu in there,” said McCall.
“We’ll make that decision later in the week.”
But McCall is obviously thinking about going with the younger man at the Aviva Stadium, as he has done well in pressure situations this season.
“He’s shown all year, when we’ve given him a new challenge he has dealt with it,” said the Sarries supremo.
“Gloucester away springs to mind, a few days after the original decision (last November, when Saracens were initially deducted 35 points for breaking wage cap rules).
“It was an emotional occasion and Kingsholm Isn’t the easiest place to play for a young fly-half.
“But he handled himself very well that day (Sarries won 21-12). He’s played Racing away, Munster away, that Ospreys game – we have a lot of faith in him.”
Goode, 32, is also a good option ahead of his loan move to Japan next month.
However there are a number of other experienced players who featured in last year’s Champions Cup final victory over Leinster in Newcastle who have moved on, either on loan or permanent deals, as the club tries to recover from the turmoil of relegation.
“It’s a little bit different,” said McCall of the personnel changes.
“But the core of the 23 will be identifiable as a team who have played a lot of knockout rugby over the last five years. The core is very strong.”
He is clear on the mission facing the reigning champions, however, against a team that recorded it’s 25th straight win in last Saturday’s PRO14 final.
“Especially the way they are going, they haven’t lost in a very long time,” McCall said. “They were hugely impressive on Saturday night.
“It’s obviously a massive challenge.
“When we got the 35-point deduction in November we very quickly made the decision to put all our eggs into the basket of Premiership survival.
“That meant conceding Europe and we continued that strategy until the penultimate game in Swansea.
“I got a heads up on the Friday night that the relegation was going to be automatic but we’d left most of the experienced players at home.
“Rhys Carre got sent off in the first five minutes but that win gave us the lifeline we needed. The next week was very difficult when automatic relegation became public and we had to go and beat Racing to qualify, but thankfully we did”.
Meanwhile, Munster will lose their Head of Athletic Performance Denis Logan next month.
Logan is calling time on his two-year stint with the Reds to return to the United States with his family for personal reasons.
The development is a blow to the province as the New Yorker was highly-regarded, having previously worked in the NFL as an assistant S&C coach with the Cleveland Browns.
He was also the Director of Performance for the US Pro Sports division of EXOS, where we worked with numerous top sports stars in the States.