Lancaster relief as Farrell avoids suspension risk

 
Ross McLean
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Owen Farrell scored a total of 18 points as Saracens were crowned Premiership champions
SARACENS fly-half Owen Farrell has escaped a citing for a high tackle on Bath’s Anthony Watson during Saturday’s Premiership final which could have presented England head coach Stuart Lancaster with an additional World Cup selection headache.

The decision means Farrell is free to play in all three of England’s World Cup warm up matches, which begin with a clash against France at Twickenham on 15 August, and is eligible for the start of the tournament proper a month later.

Lancaster has already adopted a hard line and dropped hooker Dylan Hartley from his World Cup training squad, while also ruling out selecting centre Manu Tuilagu until at least January, for disciplinary reasons.

Saracens boss Mark McCall, meanwhile, insisted his side’s 28-16 victory over Bath has finally exorcised the ghost of last year’s harrowing last-gasp Premiership final loss to Northampton, which came a week after Toulon robbed the club of Heineken Cup glory at Twickenham.

The north London club became the first side since the play-off system was introduced 12 years ago to be crowned champions after finishing outside the top two at the culmination of the regular campaign.

“After the pain and hurt of last season, it’s been a heck of a journey,” said McCall, whose side only qualified for the play-offs following a final day scramble for fourth place.

“Last year was always at the back of our mind, but we were very clear that we were owed nothing. We had to earn it and we had to scrap our way into the semi-finals.

“It was great to be in four Premiership finals in six years, and now great that we have won two of them.”

Tries from Farrell, who also added a total of 13 points with the boot, hooker Jamie George and wing Chris Wyles ensured Saracens held a commanding 25-3 lead at the break.

Despite a second-half revival, which included a try from England centre Jonathan Joseph, Bath were unable to deny their rivals a second Premiership title, and their first since 2011.

McCall added: “To perform the way we did in the first half was exceptional and Bath were always going to come back in the second half and they showed what they are capable of, but we hung in there and were absolutely thrilled to win.”