Farrell's season will end without one game for Saracens

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The Independent Online

Saracens have moved to address one of the two major personnel problems that fleetingly threatened their Premiership status by confirming the Australian coach Alan Gaffney as their new director of rugby - an appointment they hope and pray will lead to a spell of stability at a club where caprice has been turned into an art form.

The second issue shows no sign of going away, however. Yesterday, the Watford-based team finally acknowledged that Andy Farrell, their big-money recruit from rugby league, would end his season without having managed to start it.

Farrell, once lauded by the England coach, Andy Robinson, as a potential answer to the world champions' crisis of creativity in midfield, crossed the rugby divide from Wigan a year ago. At 30, he was seen as a high-risk signing, not least because of his dubious medical record. When he broke a toe in training and then suffered a prolapsed disc, those suspicions came home to roost. He has not played so much as a minute of competitive union since he arrived, and will not break his duck in any of Saracens' three remaining Premiership outings.

"We are now at a point where we will not force anything," said Mark Sinderberry, the club's chief executive. "He is fit, but not match fit. Could he play tomorrow? No. Is he getting close? Yes."

Asked whether there had been any smoke signal from England in respect of a possible place on the second-string Churchill Cup trip to North America this summer, Sinderberry responded: "I am not aware of any correspondence from the Rugby Football Union. I understand they have some other issues on their plate."

The chief executive had indicated that his preferred choice to replace Steve Diamond, sacked as director of rugby earlier this year, would be a senior northern hemisphere figure. Gaffney is not quite that, hailing as he does from Wallaby country, but he is the next best thing, have pieced together an impressive run of success with Leinster and Munster, the leading provincial teams in Ireland.

He will spend the rest of the campaign as an observer, much as the Frenchman Philippe Saint-André did at Sale a couple of seasons ago, before assuming command in the middle of next month.

"This is the most pressurised job I have had," Gaffney admitted. "Where I have been before, there have been no fears of relegation. The Premiership is a difficult competition, one with no respite. There is a lot of talent at Saracens, but we have to put the correct systems in place and get the processes right. If we do that we will be successful."

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