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Saracens boss wary of Williams as Munster lose Murray

© AFP/File | Ireland's Conor Murray has not played since suffering a nerve injury affecting his shoulder and neck area in a game on March 10

DUBLIN (AFP) - 

Saracens chief Mark McCall believes Munster's Duncan Williams is more than capable of making up for the absence of star scrum-half Conor Murray when the teams meet in a European Champions Cup semi-final in Dublin on Saturday.

Murray was missing Friday from the Munster side named to face title-holders Saracens in an eagerly-awaited clash at Lansdowne Road.

The 27-year-old half-back has not played since suffering a nerve injury affecting his shoulder and neck area against Wales in the Six Nations on March 10.

Despite that, he was included in the British and Irish Lions squad named Wednesday for the upcoming tour of New Zealand, having helped the combined side to a series win in Australia four years ago.

But Lions boss Warren Gatland made it clear Murray would have to play before the end of the European season to secure his place on the plane to New Zealand.

Earlier this week, McCall forecast the Ireland star would be fit for the semi-final but, speaking after Saracens' training session at Lansdowne Road on Friday, he said: "Our preparation was for either scenario."

McCall added: "The thing about Duncan is that he's phenomenally experienced.

"People think he's not, but he is. He's 31-years-old and got a hundred and something caps for Munster. He had a really strong game against Toulouse (in Munster's quarter-final win) and he's actually got a very strong kicking game."

Irish province Munster will be roared on by their passionate fans at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

"We've said in the week that we've played a lot of these occasions and we've got some experience in the bank, but I think the truth is tomorrow (Saturday) that experience eventually doesn't count unless we produce during the 80 minutes and we'll get what we deserve," explained former Ireland centre McCall.

Saracens, however, have bucked the trend in European club rugby by winning high-profile matches away from home in recent seasons.

"I think it's part of the culture of the team. Our mentality is that we don't pick and choose," said Saracens captain Brad Barritt.

"That extends to whether we are playing a 'lower' (ranked) team away or we are playing a 'big' team away," the former England centre added.

"We prepare the same for every team, we give them the same respect."

Saracens may now be both the reigning English and European champions but it wasn't until well into the professional era they became the top rugby union club in London, let alone the continent.

Barritt said spending the early years of professionalism playing home games in front of modest crowds at Vicarage Road, as tenants of Premier League football club Watford, explained much of Saracens' success on the road.

"I think it probably stemmed back from our early days at Vicarage Road when, to be honest, we didn't have much of an atmosphere or crowd to support us, so we always thrive on going to these big occasions in front of hostile crowds and savouring the moment," he said.

"Tomorrow is going to be one I'm sure we will remember for a long time."

© 2017 AFP