McCall gives Saracens January deadline to save season


London (AFP)

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall says the European champions have given themselves six weeks to save their season after crashing to their sixth successive defeat.

The team went down 46-14 to Clermont on Monday -- their heaviest-ever defeat in European competition -- capping a miserable weekend for English Premiership clubs.

The Pool 2 match had been delayed by a day due to adverse conditions around Allianz Park but it was the French giants who adapted better to the unfamiliar Monday late afternoon kick-off in front of a near-empty stadium.

"We didn't see that coming," said McCall. "I know we've lost a few games in a row but they were relatively tight games that we lost by a point or two here or there."

McCall said he and the players had put their heads together after the match -- a repeat of last season's final -- to thrash out how the two-time defending European champions could pull themselves out of their slump.

"What we said in the changing room is that by the end of January we hope we can be proud of how we respond to this difficult situation we find ourselves in," he said.

"Potentially, that isn't just about outcomes because we have a difficult game against Clermont away in six days -- it's also about staying tight as a group and sticking together as a group.

"We've got enough good players at the club and people who care about the club enough to respond in the right way over a six-week period."

The rivals meet again in France on Sunday with Clermont now occupying first place in Pool 2 with three rounds of the group phase remaining -- the final two matches will be played on successive weekends in January.

Clermont were infuriated by the decision to postpone the fixture from 3:15 pm on Sunday to 5:30 pm on Monday due to the hazardous condition of the approaches to the stadium after a night of snowfall.

Last season's beaten finalists said they were not consulted throughout a process they described as "completely absurd" and were angry at multiple changes to the kick-off time for the rearranged fixture.

The main target of their ire was Champions Cup organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), which Saracens owner Nigel Wray claimed was not fit for purpose.

On a miserable weekend for English clubs in the European Champions Cup, Harlequins, Wasps, Exeter, Bath, Northampton and Leicester also lost.

Northampton, whose European hopes are all but over, announced on Tuesday they had sacked long-serving director of rugby Jim Mallinder.