Apr 06, 2016
Euro Preview: Mako looks ahead to crunch Saints clash
This season’s European campaign has been a thing of beauty thus far from Saracens but Mako Vunipola and his team mates are under no illusions about the challenge ahead of them at Allianz Park this evening.
Vunipola was a member of the Saracens side which secured a history making, last gasp win over Racing Metro in the quarters last season, only to be knocked out in the semi-finals by Clermont Auvergne who they in turn had beaten so convincingly in the group stages. Vunipola also featured in the European Final back in 2013 when Saracens were overcome in Cardiff by a classy Toulon side. He, as much as anyone, knows how challenging this competition can be.
“If you look at how we went in the pools then you’d say that’s the best we’ve done in the pool stages but when it gets to knock out rugby form kind of goes out of the window. It’s whoever plays well on the day and we know that and we’ve learnt the hard way that that’s how rugby is” muses Vunipola, “hopefully we can take from those experiences and learn some lessons from that”.
Saturday evening’s clash will bring a somewhat familiar domestic match up to one of the biggest stages in rugby and this is something that Vunipola is clearly relishing. “It’s obviously a big occasion playing against our local rivals Northampton. We’ve had some good games against them and they’re always tough competition. I think it makes it extra special being a quarter final but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re going to be tough opponents on Saturday and we’ll have to turn up and be at our best”
Having come up against Northampton Saints in a string of domestic knockout and league matches over the years Saracens will be well prepared to welcome their visitors from up the M1. Yet the familiarity of the opposition this week brings with it an air of caution for Vunipola who is acutely aware that everything they know about Northampton, Northampton will know about them as well. “We know them a little bit better than you usually would in the quarter final stages and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing” he confesses. “We know it’ll be a physical challenge for us, we have to front up to that and face the challenge head on.”