Saracens boss gives players a dose of reality
SPOTLIGHT: Saracens must “relish” their European Champions Cup semifinal against French side Racing 92 on Saturday as it could be their last big match for a long time, Director of Rugby Mark McCall said on Tuesday.
The defending European champions will not be allowed to defend the trophy even if they win it after being relegated from the English Premiership for breaching salary cap rules.
McCall takes his side to Paris after a stunning victory over four-time champions Leinster in Dublin last week, achieved despite the absence of the suspended Owen Farrell.
The England captain will still be missing against a side the three-time European champions beat 27-24 in their last pool match, having lost 10-30 to them in their opening clash in Paris.
McCall said his players must make the most of the day.
“For the group this may be the last game of this significance for a while,” he said. “We don’t know when the next will be.
“We have to relish it while we have got it as it may be at least a couple of years before we play in one again.”
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McCall said the win against Leinster reflected the winning mentality they had developed in European club rugby’s premier competition.
“I really think we have grown up in this competition in the last eight to nine years,” he said. “It was 2012 the first time we got to the knockout stages and lost to Clermont in the quarterfinals.
“As a team we have grown up and learned the hard way. We have had some tough losses in the quarterfinals and the semifinals but I am proud we are in our seventh semifinal in the last eight years.
“I am very proud, it is a great achievement.”
McCall, who has also guided Saracens to five Premiership titles, said the pool games with Racing counted for nothing.
“We know them well and they know us well and they are a great side who have exploded out of the blocks post lockdown,” he said.
“They have been doing the hard yards in Europe for a long time in finals and semis,” he added. “They are a really strong European team.”
Saracens stalwarts, captain Brad Barritt, 34, and 37-year-old scrumhalf Richard Wigglesworth, are both due to leave the club at the end of the season.
But McCall said what happened this Saturday would not dictate how they will be remembered.
“The result of the game is irrelevant to their legacy at the club,” he said. “What they have done at the club won’t be affected by last Saturday or this Saturday. They are legends.”