Apr 17, 2015
Clermont vs Saracens - Preview
In a repeat of last season’s European semi-final Saracens travel to Saint-Etienne to take on Clermont Auvergne.
Confidence is high in the Saracens camp after a string of impressive wins. Mark McCall made the point of stressing how hard the players work for each other on the pitch in his press conference after the Leicester Tigers win. One thing you can guarantee on Saturday is that Saracens will give their absolute all to get the victory.
Wins against Northampton Saints, Exeter Chiefs, Newcastle Falcons, Bath, Harlequins, Racing Metro and Leicester Tigers have propelled Saracens into second place in the Aviva Premiership and the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup.
With Brits, Barritt and Farrell all back from injury, the club couldn’t be in a better place going into this huge semi-final with Clermont at the business of the season.
Clermont, like Saracens, are lying in second place in their respective domestic league. They showed their power by annihilating Northampton Saints 37-5 in their Champions Cup quarter-final, but they did suffer a shock 11-10 defeat against Oyannax at the Stade Marcel-Michelin last weekend.
Clermont will be looking to exact some revenge for their 46-6 loss to Saracens at the same stage last year. The key difference this time is the match will take place at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint Etienne rather than Twickenham.
Les Jaunards will be without Samoan No.8 Frtiz Lee for the semi-final encounter with Saracens.
"We're still going to France, but it's not quite the same as going to their own ground," McCall said.
"Their (Clermont's) performance against Northampton (in the quarter-finals) was as good as anything that has been played by a club side this season, so we have got to try to find a way to put them under some pressure and put them in some difficult positions," he added.
Clermont and Wales international centre Jonathan Davies said: “They pride themselves on putting pressure on opponents, taking advantage of the errors they might force. A big focus for us has been to concentrate on negating mistakes and playing in the right areas of the field.”
He continued: “It is good to have that sense of expectation. There has been an edge and a clarity about us in this campaign. The loss to Oyonnax has shaken up the camp. Maybe we took things for granted. We won’t be doing that this weekend.”
- Clermont have won their last six games in the competition; the also won six on the bounce in last season’s tournament before suffering a semi-final defeat to Saracens.
- Clermont’s last two defeats in the competition have both been at the hands of Saracens, including a record defeat in Europe in last season’s semi final (6-46).
- Billy Vunipola and Clermont’s Fritz Lee have both won 8 turnovers apiece in this year’s Champions Cup.
Men to Watch
Jacques Burger has been back to his best in recent weeks and will be fresh for the encounter with Clermont after missing the game against Leicester Tigers through suspension. Burger's work rate and disregard for his body has made the flanker a crucial member of the Wolf Pack over the years. Saracens fans can rest assured that Jacques will be tackling everything that moves against Clermont.
Faz is back! Owen takes his place on the bench after several months out injured. He picked up his injury in the pool game against Clermont in France. Semi-finals are often decided by the narrowest of margins and Farrell could be the man to make the difference off the bench on his return.
The English fullback has been in devastating form for Clermont this year. He tops the charts for metres made (716) and defenders beaten (28) in this year’s European Champions Cup. He’s very quick off the mark, has the ability to spot a gap and accelerate through and if a step is required he’s got that in his locker as well. Saracens will need to ensure they give Abendanon no opportunity to exploit space with pressure defence.
The French centre has recently signed a new deal with Clermont and Les Jaunards will be delighted they have secured Wesley Fofana for a few more years at least. Against Northampton Fofana looked dangerous every time he got the ball, he has such good balance, and is capable of leaving even the best defenders for dead. Like Abendanon, Saracens will have to cut Fofana off at the source if they want to keep the creative centre quiet.