May 11, 2017
Match Preview: The Champions Cup Final
This Saturday sees Saracens and ASM Clermont Auvergne go head to head in what will be the third Anglo-French final in the last four seasons. Saracens will be looking to defend their title while Clermont will be hoping not to become the first side to play in three finals without winning the title.
ASM Clermont Auvergne have appeared in two European finals in their history, losing out to Toulon by a single point in 2013 before being beaten again by Toulon in 2015. The pool stages saw them finish top of their group, losing only away at Ulster while a closely fought battle with Leinster in the semi finals booked their place in the final. Clermont have started their Champions Cup this season strongly, scoring more tries (16) in the first 40 minutes of their matches than any other team. Saracens on the other hand have yet to concede a first half try.
One to Watch (Clermont) – David Strettle
The eyes of many a Saracens fan on Saturday will be on the familiar face of David Strettle who lines up against his old club for the first time since swapping the red and black of Sarries for the yellow and blue of Clermont back in 2015. Strettle is known for his trademark pace and the winger has scored 11 tries in 15 games for the French side this season including one against Leinster in the semi finals
One to Watch (Saracens) – Michael Rhodes
Named Players’ Player of the Season last weekend it’s been another stellar season for the South African forward. Whether he’s been filling in at second row because of injuries or dominating from his preferred back row Rhodes has played a fundamental part in Saracens’ successes this season. Watch out for some big hits from Sarries’ top tackler on Saturday.
Last time out
Saracens and Clermont are something of familiar foes having met seven times in European competition. They last met in the semi finals of the 2014/15 tournament when Clermont edged out a tight encounter thanks to a Wesley Fofana try which saw the French side through to the final with a 13-9 win.
Should Saracens retain the trophy on Saturday they will also claim their 100th win in European competition
Chris Ashton has scored five tries in four matches in the Champions Cup this season. Another score would make him the leading try scorer in European Cup history. He is currently level with Vincent Clerc on 36.
The three top tacklers in the competition are likely to feature in the final on Saturday. Sebastien Vahaamahina leads the way on 90, followed by Michael Rhodes (82) and Benjamin Kayser (80).
"They’ve got a massive attacking threat, especially in the first half of matches, however, I don’t think it’s about nullifying that threat, it’s more about playing to our own strengths. It’s about playing in the right areas, which is something that we probably didn’t do very well against Munster and also not compounding errors. If we can avoid that then we’re going to get good territory then hopefully we can strike and get the scoreboard ticking over.” – Billy Vunipola
Director of Rugby Franck Azema told the Clermont website: “Saracens are a steamroller from the first to the last minute. They have a very pragmatic way of playing, very well oiled, which everyone sticks too and which builds the scoreboard little by little.
“We have to be very vigilant and concentrated to limit the impact of their big ball carriers. We have to be efficient while making sure not to be too focused on those carriers and risk opening the space around them. Our defence has to exert a constant pressure on them to prevent them from unleashing a style which makes them difficult to beat."
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wal)
Assistant Referee 1: George Clancy (Ire)
Assistant Referee 2: Ian Davies (Wal)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wal)
How to Follow
Screening – At Allianz Park from 15H30, tickets
TV – Live on Sky Sports and BT Sport
Radio – Live on BBC Radio 5 Live
Social media – Coverage across Facebook, Instragram, Twitter and more.