London Irish crisis deepens after HMRC issue winding-up petition against club

  • HMRC’s intervention for an unpaid tax suggests end is nigh
  • Government appoints advisers to aid RFU with financial crisis

London Irish have been pushed closer to the brink after being hit with a winding-up petition by HMRC with the government on Friday also appointing two independent advisers in an effort to drag rugby union out of its financial crisis.

Irish are expected to be suspended from the Premiership on Tuesday and become the third club in the space of eight months to be kicked out of the league. The chances of the protracted takeover by a US consortium being completed before next Tuesday’s deadline are rated as slim with the Rugby Football Union still awaiting key information from buyers, as it has been for months. The initial deadline was last week but was extended by the RFU primarily to allow for players and staff to be paid May’s wages.

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London Irish offered takeover deadline extension if RFU conditions are met

  • RFU prepared to grant one-week extension if wages are paid
  • US consortium must also provide details of proposed takeover

London Irish were clinging to their place in the Premiership on Tuesday night after it emerged that the Rugby Football Union was prepared to grant a seven-day extension for the proposed takeover of the club to be completed. Significant doubts remain, however, as to whether it would amount to anything more than a stay of execution.

The RFU had set Irish a firm deadline of Tuesday, insisting that a takeover by a US consortium was completed or the current owner, Mick Crossan, provided proof of being able to fund the club for the entirety of next season. Failing either of those, Irish would be suspended.

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Saracens’ sunkissed win over Sale tempered by crisis at London Irish

On-field product is good and England’s players shone with the World Cup looming, but rugby union still faces serious issues

Even in Saracens’ moment of triumph on Saturday their director of rugby, Mark McCall, admitted to mixed feelings. A first Premiership title since the salary cap saga that sent his club spiralling into the Championship ranked among his most satisfying achievements but this week could also bring a gloomy postscript if his old team London Irish become the third financially stricken club to be suspended from the league.

McCall is the smartest of operators and one whose determination to drive Sarries back to the top of the domestic game never left him, even in their darkest hours. He is also among those, however, keenly aware of the reputational damage done to the league when established names such as Wasps, Worcester and now, potentially, Irish disappear in a puff of debt-heavy smoke. “It’s hard to be jubilant when these things are happening,” the Ulsterman said. “I love London Irish and it would be awful if that happens.”

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Saracens seal Premiership title as Owen Farrell steals Sale’s thunder

  • Final: Saracens 35-25 Sale
  • Owen Farrell dominates contest to lead comeback win

English club rugby has had better seasons but there was nothing wrong with this compelling finale. For the first time since 2019, Saracens are domestic champions and able to smile again after their well-publicised salary-cap travails and painful last-ditch defeat to Leicester last year. They also had the contest’s dominant character in the form of Owen Farrell, who once again bent a big game to his considerable will.

Saracens needed every ounce of resilience at their disposal because a gloriously sun-splashed occasion, briefly interrupted by a few Just Stop Oil protestors flinging their orange powder around, contained numerous twists and turns. They had been ahead 20-13 at half-time but entering the final 15 minutes it was Sale who led 25-23.

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Saracens 35-25 Sale: Premiership rugby union final – as it happened

Owen Farrell led his side to their first title in four years at Twickenham

10 mins. Some minutes lost to a scrum on halfway that ends with a Sarries penalty after McIntyre collapses on his side of the scrum. From the lineout, Tom Curry hits Jamie George hard and there’s some head contact that knocks the England hooker out cold.

George bent double coming into the tackle, so there’s no foul play, says Ref Pearce.

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Saracens have greater experience but do not underestimate Sale’s power of purpose | Ugo Monye

The Premiership final pits two evenly matched sides against each other but the battle of fly-halves and flankers tops the bill

Saracens are favourites for Saturday’s Premiership final but do not underestimate the power of purpose. Every individual needs a purpose, it becomes their fuel, and the same can be said for every team. That is not to say Saracens do not have one but what I love about this Sale side is how clear their purpose is – to put northern rugby back on the map. They are desperately important to the Premiership in that sense and I’m so pleased they’ve made it to Twickenham.

Playing for something beyond yourself can be such a driving force. We saw it with Rassie Erasmus building the narrative around the South African people for the Springboks in 2019 and Sale will be aware that they are representing so many more people than there are in the squad, in the changing room and even in the stands. Leaning into that can be huge.

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Ford-Farrell duel likely to play key role in Sale’s final against Saracens

No game is determined by one head-to-head but title decider and England’s World Cup strategy may be shaped by contest

George Ford will never forget the first time he played against Owen Farrell. As a young lad playing junior rugby league for Saddleworth Rangers against Wigan St Patricks it did not take him or his teammates long to spot the looming threat. “We were all just stood there and you could see this lad towering over everyone. We were like: ‘He’s not playing, is he? He’s miles older than everyone.’ But it turned out he did play and he killed us. He scored a handful of tries in the first half and got told to temper it down in the second.”

And now here they come again, still on opposing sides with Ford at the tactical helm for Sale and Farrell in the box seat for Saracens on the highest-profile stage in domestic club union.

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Sale’s Alex Sanderson: ‘People have given up a lot to make this special’

A ‘mind gym’ and a belief in young players’ potential have helped revitalise the Premiership finalists Sale – and northern rugby

Most people will tell you that winning is everything in a major final. There is scant room for background nuance on the scoreboard or in the record books. Occasionally, though, there is a rare exception and this year’s Premiership final is arguably one of them. “What we’ve built matters,” stresses Alex Sanderson, leaning against the outside wall of Sale Sharks’ training centre this week. “Plenty of people have given up a lot to make this special, important and lasting. That’s the key.”

The 43-year-old Sanderson is as competitive as anyone, if not more so. He is not remotely suggesting Sale are ambivalent about beating Saracens in what promises to be a full-throttle confrontation. But sometimes life really is as much about the journey as the destination. Sanderson’s Sharks are on a spiritual crusade that will not be solely defined by the result of their first Twickenham grand final in 17 years.

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Premiership Rugby ready to move 2025 final forward to aid British & Irish Lions

  • PRL and Lions have been in discussions on new agreement
  • Recent tours hampered by late finish to domestic season

The British & Irish Lions are close to receiving a significant boost for the 2025 tour of Australia with Premiership Rugby ready to bring its final forward to accommodate more preparation time for the series against the Wallabies.

A historic agreement between the Lions and PRL requires final approval by various stakeholders, but if it is agreed it would end years of acrimony and improve the tourists’ chances of a first series win in 12 years.

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Sir Alex Ferguson gives talk ‘gold’ to Sale players before Premiership final

  • Ferguson: ‘You’re not there to enjoy it, but to win’
  • Sale training on bigger pitch to get used to feel of Twickenham

Sale have been tapping into the big-match experience of Sir Alex Ferguson in the leadup to the Premiership final against Saracens at Twickenham on Saturday. The former Manchester United manager was invited to address the Sharks squad on Tuesday and gave the players tips on how to deal with the pressure of the occasion.

The Sharks have not featured in a Premiership final since 2006 and Ferguson, a friend and racing associate of the club’s co-owner Ged Mason, advised them that concentration held the key to trophy success. “You’re not there to enjoy it, you’re there to win,” he told the players, having joked they should also avoid wearing white suits for the occasion.

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Max Malins has ‘unfinished business’ in title decider and final Saracens match

  • Malins leaving Saracens to join Bristol after Premiership final
  • Versatile back has ‘massive motivation’ to sign off with victory

Max Malins will play his final game for Saracens this weekend in a Premiership title decider that he has described as “unfinished business”.

When Malins joined Saracens in 2015 he hitched his wagon to a dynasty that would claim three European crowns and four domestic titles in five years. But a salary cap scandal and subsequent relegation in 2020 was destabilising and humbling. Last year Saracens had a shot at reestablishing themselves as the best team in the land but a late Freddie Burns drop goal enabled Leicester to steal their glory.

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Wasps thrown into fresh turmoil as RFU withdraws offer of Championship place

  • Former European champions fail to meet RFU deadline
  • Club must now rebuild from bottom of league pyramid

Wasps must begin rebuilding from the bottom of the league pyramid after the Rugby Football Union revoked their licence to play in next season’s Championship.

Hopes that the new owners HALO22 Limited could relaunch Wasps in the second tier have been dashed due to their failure to meet an RFU deadline for proving the club could still operate at the required level.

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