As a distinguished player for both Ulster and Saracens in what was a celebrated playing career, Paddy Johns has a foot in both camps for the Heineken Cup quarter final between the two teams at Twickenham on April 6.
Portadown-born Johns was capped 59 times by Ireland during his playing days, and the uncompromising lock forward starred for his native province before moving to Saracens in the late 90s….giving him a unique perspective ahead of the European clash.
“Ulster has a great blend of players in their squad at the moment,” he said when asked about the provinces strengths. “Along with the Irish contingent they have added some fantastic players in key positions from abroad. The foreign influence in the side shouldn’t be under estimated and the captain Johann Muller fromSouth Africais hugely influential for this team.
“Muller is a fantastic player and he is great operator at the set-piece. Muller has really bought into playing for the province since he’s assumed the captaincy, which is extremely important. The players look up to him, he never shirks the responsibility that has been bestowed upon him and the Ravenhill faithful really love him.”
Other foreign stars Johns singled out were New Zealand international tight-head prop John Afoa and star Springbok scrum-half Ruan Piennar.
The quarter-final match up of Johns’ two former sides has an obvious resonance with him and Johns (who recently returned to Saracens to play in a legends match before the Harlequins game) spoke of his affection for the Saracens club.
“I had a fantastic time at this club in my playing days, and I had the chance to play alongside some truly remarkable players here, and I’ve made some friends for life.
“Saracens will always have a special place in my heart. Since I’ve left the club I have always looked out for their results, and I must say they have had, and certainly still do have a brilliant side that are well drilled, consistent and highly competitive. I’m really looking forward to seeing two top sides go toe to toe with each other, it promises to be some game.”
Tickets for the Heineken Cup quarter final between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham on Saturday 6th April, kick off 18h30, are on sale now – click here for information.