Billy Vunipola has become the latest Saracens player to commit his future to the relegated Premiership club.
Saracens will play in the second-tier Championship next season bar any unforeseen league shake-up after being automatically relegated for widespread salary cap breaches, with an investigation finding they broke the rules in three consecutive seasons and were additionally unlikely to meet the cap for the 2019/20 campaign.
Jamie George and Elliot Daly have both openly committed their future to Saracens, while Maro Itoje has indicated that he will also honour his contract that runs through to the end of the 2021/22 season, and both Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell have hinted that they will follow suit.
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But both Ben Earl and Max Malins will leave the club to join Bristol Bears on loan next season after signing new long-term deals with Saracens, while Liam Williams and Nick Tompkins have already agreed to leave for Wales. Prop Rhys Carre and centre Alex Lozowski look to be on their way out behind them.
With their leading players set to undergo a significantly-reduced workload in the Championship next season, the club look to be trying to keep the core of their squad together, and one of those key figures will be the younger Vunipola brother after he confirmed he will stay with three-time European champions.
“The way I see, it’s part of the journey of the club,” Vunipola told RugbyPass. “Some boys have had to try and further their careers, as they are at the start of their careers. I’m kind of in the middle of it.
“Boys are in different situations, and I can understand that. They’ve got families and things to look after. But from my point of view, I’m just trying to sit still and play it out, see where we end up next year.
“I can’t see a negative in it. I’ve haven’t spoken directly to the powers at the top, when it comes to England or at Sarries, as to what will happen in terms of international recognition.
“I’m excited for next year. I reckon I’ll play as much as I can, try to help the team as much as possible and hopefully we’ll come straight back up. I’m definitely staying.”
Rather than taking on the likes of Exeter Chiefs, Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers, Saracens face at least a season of facing Coventry, Cornish Pirates and London Scottish, although an immediate Premiership return looks incredibly likely for the north London club given the talent they will be able to call on in the second tier and the possibility of a ring-fenced championship from 2021 onwards.
A number of players who are sticking with Saracens have come through the club’s academy, but the Vunipola brothers were signed from elsewhere, with Mako arriving from Bristol at the age of 20 and Billy following from Wasps two years later in 2013. Having made his home with Saracens through the club’s most successful period in their history, Vunipola wants to give something back to them as they hit a rough period, and has also looked at the positives of what a reduced workload will mean for his body – having suffered a fourth broken arm in the space of three years in January.
“The club have looked after me, and not just me, my family,” Vunipola said. “It’s time for me to dig my heels in and scrap with the boys and hopefully come up next year.
“If there’s one positive to take out of it, I hope that my body will take less of a battering,” he added.
“With no disrespect to the Championship, it will give my body a chance to heal. I don’t think they play as many games in the Championship. They don’t have Champions Cup or those big games.”