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McCall wary of fast-starting Clermont

© AFP / by Julian GUYER | Saracens' director of Rugby Marc McCall remarked that "Clermont are at their very best when they start games strongly" but that his team has enough experience to deal with that and can claw back should that happen


Saracens boss Mark McCall is ready for a furious start by Clermont when the teams meet in the European Champions Cup final at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Title-holders Saracens, also the reigning English champions, have yet to concede a first-half try in this season's tournament.

But French club Clermont have scored more tries -- 16 -- than any other side in the first 40 minutes of matches.

Something will have to give at Murrayfield, with Saracens' 'Wolfpack' defence up against the likes of their former wing David Strettle, one of several attacking threats in a Clermont back division also featuring Nick Abendanon, Aurelien Rougerie and Camille Lopez.

"Clermont are at their very best when they start games strongly, start very quickly and get points ahead of their opposition," McCall told AFP during a a news conference at Murrayfield on Friday.

"Then it is difficult to claw back. But if that does happen, we have enough experience to deal with that," the former Ireland centre added.

"They have people who can do something out of nothing, but I think this game will be close. These games are won or lost in the last 20 minutes."

- 'Resilience' -

Saracens have proved they can work their way back into matches and captain Brad Barritt said: "One thing we pride ourselves on at Saracens is being relentless and being resilient.

"Those are two key characteristics that we pride ourselves on, to carry on when the chips are up or the chips are down, to keep fighting and having the resilience when you have setbacks to come back fighting," added the South Africa-born former England centre.

"That's been the evolution of this team. We have learnt through experience. We have learnt the hard way and gradually built up this European pedigree. It doesn't happen overnight. It's been gradual improvement and the understanding of how to finish games off."

North London's Saracens, eyeing a domestic and European 'double Double' are on the verge of establishing themselves as an all-time great club side but the 30-year-old Barritt said he wanted his team to focus on the here and now rather than their place in history.

"A big lesson we learnt last year was at the culmination of the season -- you have this euphoria for two days and then it dissipates and dies down and you start thinking towards next season.

"The more you actually think about it, the enjoyment comes from the journey, the procedure of getting there, the step-by-step process of achieving something you set out to do.

"That's the way we have attacked this year -- we wanted to learn, improve and get better as a team. We know the sense of enjoyment is through the journey and not necessarily at the end of it.

"We made it pretty clear we weren't going to be a flash in the pan. But we have never spoken in terms of how great a legacy we want to create."

Saracens wing Sean Maitland was ruled out of the final after suffering an injury but his absence has created a vacancy on the bench for his fellow Scotland international Duncan Taylor.

"I'm gutted for Sean to miss out, but I'm very excited to get involved and play up here in Edinburgh," said Taylor.

"It's a home from home. I have a lot of family up here that will come and watch. They don't get to see me play very often so that means a lot. I am very excited to be involved."

by Julian GUYER

© 2017 AFP