Mako Vunipola has insisted he has no regrets over his co-investment with the Saracens owner Nigel Wray despite his side’s relegation as a result of the ensuing salary cap scandal, claiming he would not hesitate in doing so again.
The Vunipola brothers’ business arrangement with Wray was one of four co-investments that ultimately led to Saracens being fined £5.36m and docked 105 points, condemning them to relegation to the Championship next season.
A house bought by a company owned by the Vunipolas, called Vunprop Limited, was two-thirds funded by the brothers, the remaining £450,000 in an interest-free loan from Wray. The former Saracens chairman also covered renovations costs.
Although no players were at fault for the breaches, the fallout for Saracens has been catastrophic. Initially they were handed a 35-point deduction but having refused to a mid-season audit and acknowledged they will be over the salary cap this season, Premiership Rugby hit them with another 70-point deduction which rubber-stamped their relegation.
Jamie George became the first of their England internationals to confirm he intends to stay at the club next season with Mako Vunipola revealing he is in negotiations over following suit. A number of their younger players on the fringes of international setups are set to leave however, to avoid spending a year in the Championship, which has just been hit by funding cuts of 50% for next season.
Vunipola however, was adamant that if Wray approached him over a potential co-investment again he would accept in order to secure his future once his career is over. The 29-year-old said: “No regrets at all. If I had the choice to do it again, I would do it again knowing what has happened.
“That is no slight at not caring about what has happened to the club, but more the fact that I know rugby is important, but our careers are short and I want to look ahead a bit. [Nigel] came to us, but also, he understood that we were looking for further on in our futures and not just in rugby.
“He presented the opportunity to us and as rugby players our careers aren’t that long. Any opportunity that can help or sort a little bit of our future after rugby, we’re more than willing to look into it.
“That was our thinking when we first invested with Nigel and that’s not changed. [It’s still] business as usual. In terms of Nigel, he’s still there and backs us. For me and my brother he’s allowed us to just focus on the rugby.”
Vunipola intends to iron out his club future after England’s Six Nations campaign with Ireland due at Twickenham next Sunday in round three. The loosehead prop admitted however, that this has been the hardest three months of his career, adding the impact on his family and friends has been hardest to take.
“It’s not been comfortable, but probably it’s been more difficult for friends and family who hear and read all this stuff,” he added. “It has been difficult for them. For us as rugby players, we deal with it every day and it is something that we are used to. But when people are saying stuff about you and you have family who care about you, it affects them.
“When we first got told that we had minus 35 was a low moment. And then when they announced we were definitely relegated was probably the lowest. Because as a team, when we had that first fine we understood it and thought: ‘We can get after this’. Then to have another, that second low was devastating. Some people are in different situations and that is when you start thinking about them and their families.”