Kyran Bracken today stepped down as Saracens captain - and immediately set his sights on regaining the England scrum-half position.
Bracken, who skippered England on their recent summer tour of North America, has handed over the leadership reins to French international Abdel Benazzi and will now serve as vice-captain.
Benazzi, French national team captain on 12 occasions, joined Saracens from Agen three months ago, and will be in charge for the September 2 Premiership opener against Wasps at Loftus Road.
‘‘I felt that my form suffered last season with the added responsibility of captaincy,’’ said Brack will be of more benefit to the club if I can play at my best, and with a man like Abdel taking over, we are in a good position.
‘‘I enjoyed my season as captain, and it has helped me in certain are game, but I now just want to concentrate on playing well for the club and push for the England number nine jersey this season.’’
Bracken won the first of his 29 England caps in 1993, but played second fiddle to Northampton and Lions scrum-half Matt Dawson last term, not starting in any of the Six Nations victories over Wales, Italy, Scotland or France.
The pair fought tooth and nail for England recognition since Dawson was first capped in 1995, although he has now raced ahead of Bracken, having collected 41 caps.
‘‘We completely understand K’s reasons for stepping down this season, and we support him in his quest to win his number nine jersey back,’’ said Saracens chief executive Francois Pienaar.
Benazzi faces a sizeable task this term, leading a Saracens outfit whose summer departures have included English international quartet Danny Grewcock, Dan Luger, Julian White and Tony Diprose.
And they will also be without Benazzi’s French Test team colleague Thomas Castaignede, whose serious Achilles’ injury threatens to sideline him until next February.