November 17, 2019 / 6:08 PM / 20 days ago

Saracens begin European title defence with heavy loss at Racing 92

(Reuters) - A weakened Saracens team were hammered 30-10 by French side Racing 92 as their European Champions Cup title defence started with a crushing defeat on Sunday.

Saracens were without England internationals Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy and Mako Vunipola, who were part of the World Cup campaign in which Eddie Jones’ side finished runners-up behind South Africa in Japan earlier this month.

The English champions had said they may have to prioritise Premiership survival over European ambitions after being docked 35 points and fined 5.36 million pounds ($6.86 million) by the Premiership for breaching salary cap rules.

The club had said they would appeal the punishment which, if upheld, would leave them bottom of the table with -22 points and in danger of relegation thereby putting the futures of some of their key players in doubt.

However, British media reported on Sunday that Saracens would drop their plans to appeal ahead of Monday’s deadline.

The club could also face action from European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) after their representatives pulled out of the season’s launch of the Champions Cup in Cardiff last week.

Tries from Virimi Vakatawa, Teddy Thomas, Finn Russell and Wenceslas Lauret ensured Top 14 side Racing 92 secured a bonus-point win in the Pool 4 clash at La Defense Arena on Sunday.

Saracens centre Alex Lozowski, who had said earlier this week that the club could handle the fallout of their salary cap breach, scored his team’s only try.

Saracens host Ospreys in their next fixture on Nov. 23.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris

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