Saracens boss McCall still ambitious in Champions Cup after turbulent few weeks

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes the Champions Cup can be retained if they defy the crisis that has engulfed the club by reaching the quarter-finals.

A 35-point deduction for breach of salary-cap regulations has left the double winners fighting a desperate battle for Gallagher Premiership survival, forcing McCall to prioritise domestic action knowing his playing resources will be depleted by international call-ups during the Six Nations.

But after the Ospreys were swept aside 44-3 in front of a subdued crowd of 7,531 at Allianz Park, McCall refused to rule out a successful defence of their European crown.

“We are still ambitious to do well in the competition and we still want to win the games,” he said.

“We have just got some decisions to make along the way about when the internationals play and we will make some decisions along the way.

“If we get through to the quarter-finals we’ve got a chance – a good chance – because in my experience this team in pretty good in knockout rugby.”

Elliot Daly was named man of the match on his debut after setting up two tries for wing Rotimi Segun in a comfortable bonus-point victory that restored Saracens to winning ways after their defeat at Racing 92 last weekend.

“Overall it was a good performance. We were a bit sloppy in the first half of the first half in particular,” McCall said.

“We were a little bit sideways and not as confrontational as we wanted to be, but our performance improved as the game went on.”

Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke admitted his injury-ravaged side, who were also missing their Wales stars following the World Cup, were taught a lesson at Allianz Park.

“We were chasing the game and you don’t want to be doing that against Saracens in their own back yard,” Clarke said.

“There’s undoubtedly a bit of self-belief that’s missing amongst the group at the moment based on the run we’ve been on.

“There’s no lack of desire or work ethic but when you’re chasing a confidence-boosting win this is a tough place to come.

“We’re in the game to win so this is tough and as a club we have a lot of work to do.

“Saracens were excellent and they do what they do very well.”

The Ospreys have lost their opening two Champions Cup group games and Clarke revealed the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, George North and Justin Tipuric are at least two weeks away from returning to action.

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