Richard Wigglesworth has urged his Saracens team-mates not to treat life in the Championship next season with contempt following their European heartbreak.
Saracens’ hopes of a fourth Heineken Champions Cup title in five years evaporated on Saturday as Juan Imhoff’s late try gave Racing 92 a 19-15 semi-final victory.
It was Saracens’ last visit to rugby’s top table for a while after their relegation from the Gallagher Premiership for breaching salary cap regulations.
And former England scrum-half Wigglesworth – who is leaving Saracens after 10 years in north London and admitted he was a “bit of a mess” after the final whistle in Paris – had a sobering message for his colleagues.
“The Championship will be difficult,” Wigglesworth said. “The large majority of the squad will play the large majority of the games.
“If you want to be a Saracens player and you p*** about in the Championship you will not be a Saracens player for the next 10 years.
“It is pretty obvious you will not get away with that because Ealing and the other teams have improved really well and are fully professional.
“The future is bright because the academy has done it the right way, but Owen (Farrell) and Maro (Itoje) have this level of what it requires to be to be a Saracens player, and you might need a few of those boys to get them over the line.”
England stars Farrell, Itoje, Jamie George, Elliot Daly and the Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, are among Mark McCall’s squad who have committed to spending next season in the Championship.
But the likes of Ben Spencer, George Kruis and Liam Williams have already left Sarries following the salary cap scandal, and Wigglesworth and captain Brad Barritt will also depart after the 2019/20 season comes to an end this week with games against Worcester and Bath.
“I was a bit of a mess afterwards,” Wigglesworth said of the semi-final defeat. “It hit me and I am sure it will be an emotive week for myself and more so for Brad.
“He has been here 12 years, the captain who has basically lifted every trophy we have ever won and it is a joke what he puts his body through.
“We need to have a good week and enjoy it, but I am not going to say it is not going to be tinged with sadness.”
Wigglesworth, 37, joined from Sale in 2010 and has played over 200 games for Saracens.
During the 2018/19 season he broke Steve Borthwick’s 265-game record for the most Premiership appearances.
On his own future, Wigglesworth said: “I have some options to sort out in the next couple of weeks.
“I have been intensely focused on what I have been doing, but now I need to do what is best for me and my family and make a good career decision.
“If it does not happen in the next couple of weeks it is because the things on the table are not right.
“I need to think about where I can make an impact and contribute really well.”