Saracens braced for toughest Premiership season as they return to top flight

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The north London club were relegated for salary-cap infringements in 2020, but bounced back with immediate promotion from the Championship.

Sarries open their campaign on Friday night at Bristol Bears, who finished top of the regular season table.

The Premiership has 13 teams this season – one more than before – with each side playing 24 matches and no relegation at its end. McCall believes it will be tougher than ever to win the league in what he described as “a very long season”.

“All the teams look stronger than ever before,” he said.

McCall believes one of the greatest challenges will be managing international absences, whether that is Lions players missing at the start of the season, or the regular Autumn and Six Nations programmes.

“There’s things that teams have to contend with which is different from club to club,” he said. “Post Lions tour there’s teams that start without the Lions tour, which is an unusual thing. Some teams are used to being without international players at various points of the season, but to start without them is a new challenge.

“How teams deal with international absences, the length of the season, is going to be interesting.”

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Sarries have a long list of absentees, including their five Lions and an injury list that includes Alex Goode, Max Malins and Sean Maitland in the back three alone.

Goode and Malins are two players back from year-long loans. McCall believes improvement is evident in all six.

“They all improved,” he said. “We hoped they would. You would hope a player gets better in a 12-month period anyway. They were good players anyway, but they’ve got better.”

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