Venue switch pleases McCall


Published: Monday 6th April 2015 by The News Editor

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Mark McCall believes neutral territory offers Saracens hope of toppling mighty Clermont to reach a second successive European final.

Marcelo Bosch landed a long-range penalty in the final act of Sunday’s showdown with Racing Metro to clinch a 12-11 victory that has set up a last-four trip to St Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on April 18.

Awaiting in the Champions Cup semi-finals are Clermont, who are bristling with confidence after their remarkable 37-5 rout of runaway Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton.

However, McCall believes that facing Clermont outside of their Stade Marcel-Michelin stronghold, where they have not lost in Europe since 2008, is a different proposition.

“Given Clermont’s home record, it’s bit of a relief to be playing them on neutral territory. We’re still going to France, but it’s not quite the same as going to their own ground,” McCall said.

Saracens’ prospects against the Top 14’s second-placed team are likely to be improved by the return of centre Brad Barritt from an ankle injury, while there is an outside chance fly-half Owen Farrell could recover from his knee problem in time.

“We have some pretty tough fixtures coming up – Leicester next Saturday is a massive game for us and after Clermont we have Northampton in the Premiership,” McCall said.

“We have some players coming back and will have to spread the load during this period. Brad should be back for the Champions Cup semi-final, Owen is touch and go.”

Saracens hardly sent shockwaves across the continent after dispatching Racing in an arm wrestle decided by Bosch’s nerveless penalty, but McCall insists the result is all that matters.

“Sometimes the games are the way they are and we mustn’t over analyse these things,” McCall said.

“We’ve come away to France and played a big, strong, very good team with outstanding half-backs, but we’ve won.

“We shouldn’t worry too much about how we won, but just that we won and reached our third consecutive semi-final in this tough competition. That says a lot about the players we have.

“When you look at Ronan O’Gara at Munster and Jonny Sexton at Leinster, they lost quarters and semis over the years before they started winning them.

“We lost the quarter to Clermont four years ago and the semis to Toulon two years ago, and you saw out there that Racing didn’t really know how to win the game.

“They had this big strong wind they didn’t use because of the pressure they were under, and that was down to our team.”

Racing’s Jamie Roberts expects to end speculation over his future this week with the British and Irish Lions centre likely to sign a dual contract in Wales.

“Hopefully it will be sorted this week. I don’t want to say anything until it’s sorted,” Roberts said.

Published: Monday 6th April 2015 by The News Editor

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