Mako Vunipola has insisted he has no regrets over the joint business ventures that helped pave the way for disgraced title-holders Saracens’ relegation from the English Premiership.
The controversial English and European champions have been hit with a mammoth 105-point penalty by Premiership chiefs to ensure they will be playing in the second tier of domestic rugby union next season following repeated breaches of the top flight’s salary cap regulations.
Vunipola was the recipient of £450,000 ($587,155, 541,981 euros) paid by the London club’s former owner and chairman Nigel Wray into Vunprop, a company he owned jointly with his younger brother Billy, also a Saracens and England forward, that was set-up to purchase a house.
Wray, a successful businessman who had effectively bankrolled Saracens since the start of rugby union’s professional era, enjoyed property arrangements with several of the club’s leading players in addition to the Vunipola brothers.
The Saracens benefactor insisted investment was not the same thing as salary but an independent panel viewed the arrangements as a means of getting round the £7 million salary cap.
Mako Vunipola, asked at England’s hotel in London following a training session if he regretted such business arrangements, replied: “No regrets at all.
“If I had the choice to do it again, I would do it again knowing what has happened.
“That’s no slight at not caring about what has happened to the club, more the fact that I know rugby is important and our careers are short and I want to look ahead a bit,” he explained.
None of the Saracens players have been blamed for the club contravening the Premiership’s salary cap rules and Mako Vunipola was adamant he had no idea of the risks he and Wray were running.
“No, not in the slightest,” the England prop said.
As for the effect the fall-out from the scandal has had on the club, Vunipola said: “It’s not been a comfortable three weeks, but probably it’s been more difficult for friends and family who hear and read all this stuff.
“When they announced we were definitely relegated that was probably the lowest.”
Jamie George is the only one of the England internationals at Saracens to have so far committed his future to the club, with an uncertain Vunipola saying of his prospects: “Right now I don’t really know.
“Some things need to happen before I can say I’m definitely staying.”