Apr 22, 2016
Preview: McCall looks ahead to Champions Cup Semi Final
Director of rugby Mark McCall insists his team’s big game experience will be invaluable as they take on Wasps in the Champions Cup semi-final on Saturday.
The North London club are no strangers to the final stages of European battles, reaching this stage in three of the last four years but they have yet to lift the coveted trophy falling to Toulon in the 2014 final and failing to secure victory on all three other appearances in the last four.
However, McCall believes his side are ready to capitalise on the lessons learnt in defeat.
“We talked to the squad about six weeks ago about this European journey that we have been on” said McCall.
“I remember losing to Clermont five years ago and it was men against boys and we got absolutely bullied off the park. A lot has changed at our club in the five years.
“We understood that physically we needed to be in better shape, our performance team have done a remarkable job and we recruited well.
“This young pack that we have got, who have had all this experience and maybe this time last year, Maro [Itoje] was playing his third or fourth game for the first team, George Kruis hadn’t quite broken in to the England team and Jamie George hadn’t played for England but all of a sudden everybody is much more confident in these games and have experienced even bigger matches than this now.
“I think there is nothing like being out there and experiencing some of the things we have experienced down the years and I think that we maybe saw towards the end of last season in the semi-final against Northampton at Franklins Gardens and the final against Bath” added McCall.
“I think its just players getting used to those big occasions and hopefully when we get into a couple of tough spots this weekend we will be able to show the resolve and the resilience we showed in some of those games.”
The next hurdle standing in the way of Saracens quest for European glory is Wasps.
Dai Young’s side administered a 64-23 demolition of the men in black when the two sides met at Allianz Park in the Premiership, but McCall is adamant that the game isn’t playing on his side’s mind as they come face-to-face again.
“We actually haven’t talked about it at all this week. It is not a game we have reflected on too much because there are very few people who are going to start this game who started that game, but it wasn’t a good day, it was a terrible day. They played exceptionally well and we didn’t cope very well. But six weeks before that we beat them at their place with our full team against their full team so I think it was the exception rather than the rule.
“It is not just against us that has happened, they have been playing some good rugby and have done for the last 10 weeks. They look good, they have got firepower, so they are a good team.”