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Former England captain Martin Johnson warns

FORMER England captain Martin Johnson has warned Gallagher Premiership clubs not to write off Saracens in the wake of this week’s punishment over breaches of salary cap rules.

The Allianz Park side were handed a 35-point league deduction and fined more than £5million on Tuesday, although both sanctions will be suspended while the London club appeal against them.

If the deduction remains in place — for multiple breaches of Premiership Rugby’s salary cap regulations over the last three seasons — Saracens are odds-on for relegation this term.

But asked about the prospect of the European and English champions going down, Johnson replied: ‘I think they might manage to avoid it (relegation). We were talking before about motivation and they might.

‘I heard it was coming a while ago and they were not going to announce it, but there is not much detail there.

‘They are saying they didn’t do it knowingly, which they are going to say at this point, and they are appealing, but I don’t know the detail.

‘It’s self-imposed (the salary cap), it’s a Premiership agreed thing amongst themselves to keep the costs down. It is up to them to sort that out and the punishment.

‘Saracens have produced a lot of the England players, it’s the core of a team which got to the final and a lot have come through the system and they’ve done a good job, it has to be said.’

Nine players from Mark McCall’s side were part of Eddie Jones’ squad out in Japan.

Former England captain Johnson believes the World Cup runners-up will benefit from being thrown back into the Premiership season after such an intense couple of months.

‘They will go back to their clubs and enjoy being home and away from the pressure of World Cup build-up and the World Cup,’ the ex-Leicester lock added.