McCall denies Saracens display a result of Barcelona trip

Mark McCall denied Saracens’ squad-bonding trip to Barcelona was responsible for their worst performance of the season against Bristol.

The double winners emerged with a bonus-point 27-9 victory at Allianz Park that placed them on the cusp of a home Aviva Premiership play-off, but they were unrecognisable from the team that over-ran Munster seven days earlier.

On Monday the players returned from a 36-hour jolly to Spain that immediately followed their Champions Cup semi-final victory in Dublin, but McCall refused to blame the jaunt for an uncharacteristically poor display.

When asked if the trip to Barcelona had any impact, the director of rugby replied: “No, I think that’s clutching at straws. It was jut a bad performance. We had a good training week this week. The players were back on Monday afternoon. We just played poorly.

“It was a really disappointing performance, especially the first half but also overall. We have certain standards which we aspire to and we fell below those. Give Bristol some credit because they really got stuck in.

“Our excuse maybe was that it was that the came a week after the semi-final, which was a big occasion, and clearly this wasn’t as important.”

Former Scotland captain Kelly Brown and South African scrum-half Neil de Kock played their last last matches for Saracens before entering retirement, while London Irish-bound Petrus du Plessis signed off his Allianz Park career with two tries.

“This is an important day to celebrate two unbelievable careers, so we just wanted to celebrate the bonus point and focus on the careers of two great rugby men and say goodbye to them. We wanted to play better for them,” McCall said.

British and Irish Lions prop Mako Vunipola took a bang to his knee but McCall insisted he was okay, adding that he expects to rest players for the climax to the regular season against Wasps on Saturday.

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