Saracens skipper excited by Dublin date with Munster

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 07:41

REACTION: Saracens captain Brad Barritt insisted his title-holders would be undaunted by the prospect of a European Champions Cup semifinal away to Irish province Munster.

The London club, who are also the reigning English champions, booked their place in the last four with a convincing 38-13 quarterfinal win at home to Glasgow on Sunday.

In front of 15 000 supporters at their Allianz Park ground, Saracens scored four tries, with England wing Chris Ashton crossing twice.

Barritt and fellow centre Marcelo Bosch grabbed Saracens' other two tries against a Glasgow side making their first appearance in the knockout phase.

Saracens, by contrast, are now through to a fifth successive semifinal.

Dublin's Lansdowne Road has often proved an unhappy hunting ground for English sides at both club and international level.

Indeed it was only a few weeks ago that several Saracens stars were members of the England side who saw their hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam dashed with a 9-13 defeat to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, as the ground is now known.

"The pleasing thing is that over these five or six years we have thrived on going to places where we potentially have not won before," Barritt said.

"It started in our Vicarage Road days when we didn't get much of a crowd and we thrived on going to [Leicester's] Welford Road and [Gloucester's] Kingsholm.

"This is the next logical step - to go to a national stadium to play an iconic team like Munster," the 30-year-old Saracens stalwart added.

"We will look forward to it. We don't see it as a daunting prospect - we see it as an exciting opportunity," explained Barritt, capped 26 times by England.

Premiership leaders Wasps lost 17-32 to Leinster at the Aviva on Saturday and Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall, himself a former Ireland international, said it was important his players got used to the prospect of playing before a sell-out and partisan crowd of more than 50 000.

"The players don't realise it yet - hopefully they will when they get there - but it's going to be a very special day," McCall said.

"We played Clermont a couple of years ago when there were 30 000 Clermont fans and us. This is going to be double that - there will be 50 000 Munster fans.

"We all know there's an emotional element to this game and we have to make sure we're able to cope with that," said McCall, with Munster especially fired-up following the shock death of popular coach Anthony Foley on the eve of a Champions Cup pool match in Paris in October.

"One of the benefits for us is that we have players who have been through it all before.

"We have a team that relishes these kinds of occasions."

Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend, who will take charge of Scotland at the end of the season, paid tribute to the way Saracens had overwhelmed his side.

"We're obviously disappointed," said Townsend.

"We put in huge effort to get here and we didn't deliver.

"Saracens did a number of things very well, their physicality when carrying the ball being one of them. The pace they played at was excellent. They were outstanding," the former Scotland playmaker added.

"A French journalist spoke to me at the start of the year and said Saracens are going to win Europe, saying they're unbeatable.

"And when you see them play like that, they're very difficult to beat. They've expanded their game. They got their back three on the ball a lot."

Leinster's reward for seeing off Wasps was a semifinal away to Clermont, who hammered French rivals and three-time former European champions Toulon 29-9 on Sunday.

"We have a big obstacle to clear first against Leinster before dreaming of the title," cautioned Clermont's flyhalf Camille Lopez.

Agence France-Presse

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Sat, 21 April 2018
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Leinster v Scarlets 14h30 Dublin
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Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 17h05 Kingspan Stadium
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Sun, 22 April 2018
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Racing Metro v Munster 14h15 Paris
Fri, 27 April 2018
Munster v Ulster 22h00 Thomond Park
Worcester Warriors v Harlequins 22h00 Sixways
Wasps v Northampton Saints 22h00 Ricoh Arena
London Irish v Saracens 22h00 Madejski Stadium
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons 22h00 Welford Road
Gloucester v Bath 22h00 Kingsholm
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks 22h00 Sandy Park
Kings v Cheetahs 22h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Treviso v Zebre 22h00 Stadio Monigo
Dragons v Scarlets 22h00 Rodney Parade
Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors 22h00 Myreside
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys 22h00 Cardiff Arms Park
Connacht v Leinster 22h00 Sportsground
Hurricanes v Sunwolves 07h35 Wellington
Stormers v Rebels 13h00 Newlands
Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
La Rochelle 6 4 0 2 20
Wasps 6 3 0 3 17
Ulster 6 4 0 2 17
Harlequins 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 22
Saracens 6 3 1 2 18
Ospreys 6 2 1 3 15
Northampton Saints 6 1 0 5 6
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 6 0 0 27
Exeter Chiefs 6 3 0 3 15
Montpellier 6 2 0 4 13
Glasgow Warriors 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 6 4 1 1 21
Racing Metro 6 4 0 2 19
Castres 6 2 1 3 12
Leicester Tigers 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Scarlets 6 4 0 2 21
Toulon 6 4 0 2 19
Bath 6 4 0 2 18
Treviso 6 0 0 5 4