Alex Sanderson quoted popstar Taylor Swift to encapsulate Saracens' mentality this week, with the Premiership champions putting their off-field issues to one side to triumph at Gloucester.

Sarries returned to action on Saturday for the first time since they were docked 35 Premiership points and fined £5.36million for breaching salary cap regulations in each of the past three seasons.

The punishments are subject to review, with the club announcing their intention to appeal, and the team responded on the field in impressive fashion.

Sarries defeated Gloucester 21-12 at Kingsholm, where a number of rival fans were reported to have travelled to revel in the downfall of the country's leading team.

But coach Sanderson – part of director of rugby Mark McCall's backroom staff - provoked a reaction at full-time as he indicated towards the scoreboard as the home crowd jeered victorious Sarries.

He offered a light-hearted explanation to BT Sport in the aftermath, surprisingly using Swift's hit track Shake It Off.

"To quote the immortal words of Taylor Swift - haters gonna hate, hate, hate, players gonna play," he told BT Sport.

"I don't mean to belittle the scenario - I don't want to at all - but that's just our mentality. We've got to accept the hate we're going to receive. We're going to crack on and just play."

Sanderson does not believe Sarries should have been on the end of such anger from the rest of the Premiership, yet he added the travelling team had been motivated as a result.

"Yeah, we've used it, we've used the anger this week to fuel us," he said. "You can't use that for a full season because of the negative energy.

"We've got to go on, crack on, look strategically at what we're going to do this season and how we're going about it. This week, I can't be more impressed with the boys' application in the week and on the field."

Premiership champions Saracens put their off-field troubles behind them for 80 minutes to beat Gloucester 21-12 at Kingsholm on Saturday.

Sarries were this week docked 35 Premiership points and fined £5.36million for breaching salary cap regulations in each of the past three seasons.

The punishments are subject to review, with the club announcing their intention to appeal, and so they came into this match just a point behind Gloucester.

There were reports rival fans would flock to Gloucester to revel in the downfall of the country's best team, who were greeted with jeers as they ran out.

Supporters in the stands could be seen wearing hats reading "-26" - Sarries' points total at kick-off taking the deduction into account.

But while director of rugby Mark McCall told BT Sport ahead of the game the players had been "shocked" by the decision, the visitors gathered themselves to enjoy the better of the early stages.

An opening try, predictably met with boos, was deserved for Nick Tompkins after 25 minutes, although Gloucester responded in impressive fashion through Tom Marshall, who chipped the ball through and dribbled it over the line to dot down.

Manu Vunipola's boot continued to plunder precious points for the champions, while Ben Earl also crossed, meaning the late Gloucester pressure that led to Lewis Ludlow's try counted for little.

The four points secured on the road may bolster a Sarries survival bid if their points deduction stands, but they climb to second for now, with Bristol Bears - fourth and three points back – still to play on Sunday.

Early leaders Northampton Saints came unstuck at bottom club Bath, losing 22-13.

Saints' first defeat of the season came despite a fast start, hampered by Ben Franks and Paul Hill spending time in the sin bin late in the second half, allowing Bath – who had Aled Brew sent off - to score while the visitors were down to 13 men.

Elsewhere, Worcester Warriors won 19-14 at Harlequins in Saturday's other top-flight fixture in England.

Rob du Preez kicked 17 points as Sale Sharks, who were twice reduced to 14 men, overcame Wasps 28-18 to move into second place in the Premiership.

The Sharks lost 18-16 to Gloucester in their previous league outing at home this season but avoided a second successive defeat on their own turf.

Du Preez kicked five penalties and also converted brother Dan's try in a first half that saw Sale have Simon Hammersley sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.

Valery Morozov also saw yellow in the second half for the hosts, while forward Josh Beaumont was carried off on a stretcher during an eventful contest.

AJ MacGinty kicked two late penalties to extend Sale's advantage, the second of them denying Wasps – who had winger Paolo Odogwu sent off against his former club in the closing seconds for a dangerous challenge for a high ball – a losing bonus point on their travels.

 

Leinster continued their magnificent start to the Pro14 season as they cruised to a sixth successive victory, overcoming Connacht 42-11 on Friday.

Conference A leaders and defending champions Leinster fell behind to an early penalty, but five first-half tries – two each from Andrew Porter and Ronan Kelleher – had them 35-6 up by the interval.

Stephen Fitzgerald claimed Connacht's only try of the match eight minutes into the second half, but visiting Leinster added further gloss through James Lowe with 11 minutes remaining.

Elsewhere, Duhan van der Merwe's try combined with accurate kicking from Simon Hickey ensured Edinburgh did not fall foul of an attempted comeback from the Dragons, triumphing 20-7 at Murrayfield.

The Scottish side led 10-0 at half-time. While Adam Warren crossed for a converted try to briefly get the visitors back into contention, Van der Merwe's well-worked score helped wrap up the points.

Hickey kicked two conversions and a pair of penalties for Edinburgh, who are now up to second in Conference B.

Eddie Jones is excited to get the chance to return to Japan after it was confirmed Rugby World Cup finalists England will tour there in 2020.

England, who overcame Australia and New Zealand in the knockout stages, lost 32-12 to South Africa in the final last Saturday.

Tournament hosts Japan, meanwhile, impressed many on their run to the quarter-finals, where they eventually went out to the Springboks.

It was announced on Friday that England will go back to Japan next year, with a two-match Test series scheduled for July.

"Japan were fantastic Rugby World Cup hosts and we feel humbled to have been a part of it," said Jones.

"The England squad had a fantastic experience of the country and we are excited to return in July next year.

"The Japan national team have shown again how good a side they are with their performances during the World Cup and I know they will provide a great test for us in July."

England have only played against Jones' former team Japan on two occasions, winning 35-15 at Twickenham in November 2018 having previously met in the inaugural World Cup in 1987.

The first Test will be on July 4 at the Showa Denko Dome in Oita, the venue where England knocked out the Wallabies, while the second will be held in Kobe a week later.

Toronto Wolfpack have billed Sonny Bill Williams as "rugby's LeBron James" after he joined the Super League newcomers in a move likened to David Beckham's switch to LA Galaxy.

Williams swapped codes again to sign a lucrative two-year deal with ambitious Toronto after the New Zealand centre added two Rugby World Cup titles to his union CV.

The Wolfpack have pulled off a major coup to land the 34-year-old following their promotion to the top flight in only their third season.

Toronto chairman and chief executive Bob Hunter said the acquisition of Williams can raise the profile of rugby league across the globe.

"The excitement he will bring to the sport of rugby league in this country will be incredible," said Hunter. "Having someone of his talent join the Wolfpack will greatly raise the profile of the club, and also help move the game forward globally.

"Sonny is a phenomenal athlete and we believe he is rugby's LeBron James and his addition to our league is comparable to when David Beckham joined LA Galaxy."

Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott expects Williams to make a big impact in his first stint in Super League.

"We have signed one of the highest profile rugby players, if not sports stars in the world and he will enhance the world of rugby in Toronto and certainly push the brand of the Wolfpack onto another level," said the former Leeds Rhinos boss.

"The main point of excitement for our club is that we are signing a great rugby league player who has the hunger to be successful in Super League much as he was in the NRL and rugby union."

Leicester Tigers issued a hands-off warning after Toronto were linked with Manu Tuilagi, while fellow England centre Ben Te'o is also reportedly on their radar.

He may be heading over 15,000 kilometres from home, but Sonny Bill Williams is back where it all began.

The 34-year-old has returned to rugby league after signing a lucrative two-year deal with Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack.

It is another fascinating move for the New Zealander, who has represented his country in both codes, holds a 7-0 record in professional boxing and was Googled more often than Kim Kardashian by Kiwis in 2010.

Here, we take a look at Williams' career so far.

BULLDOGS BEGINNINGS

Fifteen years ago Williams, then 18, burst onto the scene with a brilliant display in his NRL debut as Canterbury Bulldogs thrashed Parramatta Eels 48-14.

The teenager scored a try and made 184 metres that night and, one month later, he became New Zealand's youngest ever Test player.

Canterbury went on to win the 2004 NRL Grand Final, with Williams coming off the bench in the victory. A star was born.

TO TOULON

After four seasons with the Bulldogs, Williams controversially switched codes, and countries, joining Top 14 side Toulon, despite having five years left to run on his deal with Canterbury.

A bitter court case followed, and Williams only spent two years in France before turning down an extension that would have reportedly made him the highest-paid player in union.

Williams had other ideas. He wanted to become an All Black.

WORLD CUP WINNER

Williams signed a contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union in 2010 and returned to Canterbury, this time with the region's union team, while representing the Crusaders in Super Rugby.

He made his much-anticipated All Blacks debut in November 2010, starting at outside centre against England, becoming the first man in almost a century to represent the country in both league and union.

New Zealand would end their long wait for a second World Cup title in 2011, with Williams scoring a World Cup record three tries as a substitute.

A HIT AT HEAVYWEIGHT

In 2009, Williams traded passes for punches when he made his debut as a professional boxer, stopping Gary Gurr in the second round.

That was thought to be a one-off but Williams clearly had a taste for the sweet science and he fought four more fights - winning them all - before taking on a title shot against Francois Botha in 2013.

Williams would walk away with the WBA International Heavyweight belt with a points win over a man who had fought Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis previously.

However, there was an element of farce to the bout as it was cut short by two rounds, with the Kiwi clearly struggling by the end of the 10th.

RULING THE ROOST

Five years after his last NRL appearance - and after a stint in Japan - Williams returned to league with the Sydney Roosters, scoring a try on his debut in front of a record crowd.

He would be named the Roosters' player of the year that season and won a second NRL title.

Already a World Cup winner in union, he came close to claiming league's most coveted international prize too but was part of the New Zealand side beaten by Australia in the 2013 final.

Another return to union followed, though, and Williams added another World Cup winners' medal to his collection with the All Blacks in 2015.

Sonny Bill Williams has returned to rugby league by signing a two-year deal with Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack.

The 34-year-old, a two-time Rugby World Cup winner with New Zealand, has switched codes again having signed a contract reportedly worth 9million Canadian dollars that will make him the highest-paid rugby league player in the world.

Williams, who featured for the All Blacks in their run to the World Cup semi-finals last month, began his professional career in the NRL with Canterbury Bulldogs.

After winning a Premiership with the Bulldogs, he switched to union to play for Top 14 club Toulon but returned to the NRL in 2013, winning a second title with Sydney Roosters.

It has been five years since Williams played league and his signing is a coup for a Toronto side that will spend next season in Super League having won promotion in just their third campaign.

Centre Williams, a two-time World Cup-winner with the All Blacks with 58 caps to his name, is ready to play a big role for ambitious Toronto on and off the field.

"Toronto Wolfpack is a club that represents Toronto which is a very multicultural city," he said.

"The club has big ambitions and big goals. I want to be part of all this and do all I can to help reach those lofty goals.

"On the field I'd like to bring high quality play and do all I can for the betterment of the team. Off the field I'd like to use my experience to mentor the young players and be helpful where I am needed.

"Super league will be a new challenge and one I'm looking forward to. It will be a new experience and one I'm ready to embrace."

Scottish Rugby has been fined £70,000 and ordered to apologise after threatening to take legal action if the Rugby World Cup clash with Japan was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

The crunch Pool A clash showdown between the hosts and Scotland at International Stadium Yokohama last month was in doubt with one of the most destructive typhoons in decades approaching.

Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson said the organisation had received legal opinion for a potential case against World Rugby if the match was called off, with Scotland needing a win to reach the quarter-finals.

Japan beat Gregor Townsend's side in a contest that went ahead as scheduled and Scotland have now been sanctioned for Dodson's remarks, though a second charge brought against an unnamed Scottish Rugby spokesperson was dismissed.

A statement from the world governing body said: "World Rugby strongly believed the comments, which suggested an unfair and disorganised treatment of all teams, to be inappropriate and ill-judged at a time when Japan was preparing for the largest and most destructive typhoon in decades. 

"The international federation believed that such comments brought the game into disrepute, not only in relation to World Rugby's handling of an extraordinary situation but also in the message that it sent to the Japanese people. 

"Having considered all the evidence, including submissions by World Rugby and the SRU, the committee determined in respect of the first charge that comments attributed to Mark Dodson amounted to misconduct and brought the game into disrepute. 

"In respect of the second charge, the available evidence was insufficient for the committee to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities as to the source of the offending remarks and therefore it dismissed the charge."

Scottish Rugby said it would reflect on this outcome and further consider all our options, which may include arbitration.

Former England captain Dylan Hartley has retired at the age of 33, his club Northampton Saints have confirmed.

Hartley has not played since December due to a troublesome knee problem and it is that injury that has ultimately ended his career.

The hooker made 97 appearances for England, captaining his country on 30 occasions, and is the nation's second-most capped player behind Jason Leonard.

Hartley made his international debut in 2008 and was named Eddie Jones' captain ahead of the 2016 Six Nations, when England won the Grand Slam.

England also won the Six Nations with Hartley as captain in 2017 but his injury meant he missed the recent Rugby World Cup, with Jones' side reaching last weekend's final before losing to South Africa.

"I am extremely proud of my journey, both with Saints and representing England, but now is the right time to hang up my playing boots," Hartley said in quotes published on Northampton's website.

"I have loved my journey in rugby. I came to England as a teenager hoping to get a few games of rugby and to see the world.

"I could have never predicted that one day I'd play 14 years for such a special club and go on to represent and captain England."

Hartley made 251 appearances for Northampton across 14 seasons and came on when Saints won the Premiership final against Saracens in 2014.

His career was littered with controversies, though, and he was named England captain in 2016 despite serving bans totalling 54 weeks for offences such as gouging, biting and striking.

"My career wasn't perfect, but I wouldn't have had it any other way," Hartley added.

"I'm privileged to have experienced some amazing highs while there have also been some personal lows, all of which are powerful experiences that will stay with me forever.

"The final chapter of my career was supposed to go a different way, but that is the nature of professional sport."

Saracens chairman Nigel Wray insists players will not have to be sold in the wake of the club's hefty fine for breaching salary cap rules.

The Premiership champions were hit with a £5.36million fine and docked 35 points after being found to have exceeded the ceiling for payments to players in each of the past three seasons.

Sarries have appealed against the decision and insist they have done nothing wrong, with Wray defending the practice of players engaging in investment or property partnerships with him.

And on Wednesday, Wray declared there would be no knock-on effect on the make-up of the European champions' playing staff at first-team or academy level.

"Just to clarify – no obligation whatsoever to get rid of any players," Wray said in a video posted on the club's Twitter account.

"The academy is a jewel in our crown and has been greatly responsible for half the England side that got to the World Cup final. Seven of those have been with us for between seven and 10 years, almost since they were kids.

"This is what a caring environment and looking after each person does. You have a band of brothers.

"If you think it's about money, you're wrong; it's about caring, it's about love, it's about working together. 

"I'm very proud of all of our players, indeed everybody at Saracens. I'm proud of their achievements and I hope there'll be many, many more achievements – on the field and off."

The London club have come in for significant criticism and on Wednesday there were no Sarries representatives in attendance at the European Champions Cup launch, despite them being the holders.

At that event in Cardiff, Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter suggested Sarries' back-to-back Premiership title wins would be tarnished if their appeal should fail.

The Chiefs were beaten by Saracens in each of the last two finals.

Tendai Mtawarira has retired from international rugby just four days after helping South Africa to Rugby World Cup glory in Japan.

The 34-year-old prop put in an all-action performance as the Springboks dominated England 32-12 in Yokohama to win the Webb Ellis Cup for a record-equalling third time.

Mtawarira, nicknamed 'The Beast', steps away from South Africa duty having amassed 117 caps, during which time he also won a Tri Nations and a Rugby Championship with his country.

"I've been privileged to play this great game and achieve many career goals over the last 12 years of playing senior rugby," Mtawarira said.

"I've been blessed to have been part of teams that achieved so much success over the years, and I have many memories to cherish forever, but I can honestly say that winning the Rugby World Cup is the perfect ending and cherry on top.

"I am grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by many top coaches at the Springboks and the Sharks, and grateful to my numerous team mates in green and gold, and black and white, over the years."

After making his Sharks debut in 2006, Mtawarira received his first Springboks cap two years later and only Victor Mayfield and Bryan Habana have appeared more times in a South Africa jersey.

South Africa Rugby president Mark Alexander added in a statement: "'Beast' is someone who never complained, always put in the hard work and simply got on with his job in his typically unassuming way.

"When he first got an opportunity at the Sharks, he rode a bicycle to training, which perfectly sums up not only his humbleness, but his desire to make it to the top. He worked very hard to achieve what he has and we’re all very proud of him.

"'Beast', thank you for what you've done for South African rugby, to show that Springboks can indeed be gentle giants, and for never putting your own interests above that of the team. We salute you and will miss you in green and gold."

Saracens' back-to-back Premiership title successes will have come via unfair means if their punishment for breaching salary cap rules is upheld, according to Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter. 

The reigning champions of England and Europe have been docked 35 points and fined £5.36million for exceeding the ceiling for payments to players in each of the past three seasons.

Sarries were hit with the sanction following an investigation by Premiership Rugby prompted by revelations several high-profile players had formed investment or property partnerships with club owner Nigel Wray.

The London club are appealing against the verdict and have denied any wrongdoing, but Baxter – whose Chiefs side have lost to Sarries in the final in each of the past two campaigns – believes if that appeal fails, it will tarnish the last two title wins. 

And, while Baxter would "love to" see those Premiership triumphs reassigned to Exeter, he considers that an unlikely outcome. 

"If this is upheld, it's pretty obvious those titles have been won unfairly," Baxter said in Cardiff at the launch of this season's Champions Cup, an event at which Sarries had no representatives. 

"If you're asking me would I like to walk into Sandy Park and see three Premiership trophies there, I would love to.

"In reality do I see that happening? No. There are too many other factors that come into play.

"I believe the way we played in the final last year would have beaten any other team in the Premiership.

"The whole truth is if Saracens had been operating with a different group of players last season they may not have got to the final, and if a different team had been there they might have outperformed us on the day," he continued.

"It would be ridiculous for me to say they were givens. How many results could have been different in the course of a season and the top four could have been created differently.

"Every one of the games, semi-finals and finals would have been different. To sit here and say 'we should have been given the title' is a little bit like a shortcut when the season is what you do as whole."

Chris Robshaw has branded Saracens cheats and says the Premiership and European champions have put rugby union in a "dangerous place" by breaching salary cap regulations.

Sarries were docked 35 Premiership points and fined £5.36million on Tuesday for exceeding the ceiling for payments to players in each of the past three seasons.

The London club were sanctioned after Premiership Rugby launched an investigation following revelations that high-profile players had entered into investment or property partnerships with club owner Nigel Wray.

Sarries will appeal against the verdict and have denied any wrongdoing all along, but former England captain Robshaw says they have tarnished the reputation of the sport.

"It's not great, the game that we loved is in the world eye. The pinnacle of English rugby is illegal," the Harlequins skipper said.

"I think it puts our sport in a very dangerous place. We are a sport that always claimed to be whiter than white, we would look down on football and look down on this and that, we would say how it is, but we are like everyone else.

"Call it what you want. It is cheating. It is not a good situation for our sport to be in. It is not a thing we pride ourselves on.

"When you look at cheating in athletics, when you look at cheating in cycling, when you look at cheating in baseball - for us as a sport, we like to think our sport is cleaner and cleaner than everyone else.

"It is not anymore. It is not. We have to be realistic about that. As a sport we've got to take the damage that comes with that now. I am sure it will be like that for a while. It is not going to be easy for our sport to move forward.

"I know the World Cup didn't finish as we would have liked but look at the high it brought the country. And now we got some damage control to do."

Sarries could also be punished by European Professional Club Rugby after failing to attend a European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup launch in Cardiff on Wednesday.

Beleaguered Saracens could face further sanctions for failing to send a representative to the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup launch on Wednesday.

The European and English champions were on Tuesday docked 35 Premiership points and fined £5.36million for exceeding the ceiling for payments to players in each of the last three seasons.

Sarries were sanctioned after Premiership Rugby launched an investigation following revelations that high-profile players had entered into investment or property partnerships with club owner Nigel Wray.

The London club will appeal against what they described as "heavy-handed sanctions" and may also have to explain to European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) why they were not represented at an event in Cardiff.

An EPCR statement read: "EPCR is disappointed to learn of Saracens' decision to make their club representatives unavailable for today's official 2019/20 season launch of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup in Cardiff.

"EPCR will now consider what action is appropriate in this instance and will be making no further comment at this time."

Exeter were runners-up to Saracens in the last two Premiership seasons and Chiefs chairman Tony Rowe called for the champions to be relegated.

Asked what punishment they should have faced, Rowe told BBC Radio Devon: "Relegation - in professional sport in America, if you're in breach of the salary cap you get thrown out completely."

He added: "We, for a number of years, have suspected they've been infringing the salary cap,

"But I don't think the penalty is severe enough. You take away 35 points this year - they could still be in the semi-finals and could still end up at Twickenham [in the Premiership final]."

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