McCall wary of Munster's Williams

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:59
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CHAMPIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: Saracens supremo Mark McCall believes Munster's Duncan Williams is more than capable of making up for the absence of star scrumhalf Conor Murray when they meet in a Champions Cup semi-final in Dublin on Saturday.

Murray was missing Friday from the Munster side named to face title-holders Saracens, also the reigning English champions, at Lansdowne Road.

The 27-year-old 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 tour place.

"For me it is impossible to say when he [Murray] will be back," explained Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus after the squad's final pre-match training session at Lansdowne Road on Friday.

"Until he has all his strength and power back, with no pain any more, then he will be able to play. Hopefully he can get a few games in before the Lions series. It is frustrating for him and for us but unfortunately he is not ready for us."

Earlier this week, McCall forecast the Ireland star would be fit for the semi-final but, speaking on Friday, he said: "Our preparation was for either scenario. 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."

Erasmus had no qualms over Williams.

"The most important thing is what he does on the field and he has been performing really well. And off the field he is contributing like a senior player should," Erasmus added.

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 [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 Europe by winning high-profile matches away from home in recent seasons.

"We prepare the same for every team, we give them the same respect," said Saracens captain Brad Barritt.

The former England centre added that 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 the London club's 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.

"The game is going to be one I'm sure we will remember for a long time," he said.

Agence France-Presse

There are currently no matches being played
Fri, 23 March 2018
Connacht v Edinburgh 22h00 Sportsground
Munster v Scarlets 22h00 Thomond Park
Dragons v Cheetahs 22h00 Rodney Parade
Ospreys v Leinster 22h00 Liberty Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Ulster 22h00 Cardiff Arms Park
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre 22h00 Scotstoun
Kings v Treviso 22h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Crusaders v Bulls 06h35 Christchurch
Rebels v Sharks 08h45 Melbourne
Bath v Exeter Chiefs 19h45 Recreation Ground
Sat, 24 March 2018
Sunwolves v Chiefs 04h15 Tokyo
Hurricanes v Highlanders 06h35 Wellington
Saracens v Harlequins 15h00 London
London Irish v Gloucester 15h00 Madejski Stadium
Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors 15h00 AJ Bell Stadium
Stormers v Reds 15h15 Newlands
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 17h30 Kingston Park
Jaguares v Lions 19h40 Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Sun, 25 March 2018
Leicester Tigers v Wasps 15h00 Welford Road
Sun, 18 March 2018
Waratahs v Rebels 51 | 27
Sat, 17 March 2018
Jaguares v Reds 7 | 18
Wales v France 14 | 13
Lions v Sunwolves 40 | 38
England v Ireland 15 | 24
Stormers v Blues 37 | 20
Italy v Scotland 27 | 29
Brumbies v Sharks 24 | 17
Highlanders v Crusaders 25 | 17
Fri, 16 March 2018
Cardiff Blues v Treviso 31 | 25
Edinburgh v Munster 12 | 6
Chiefs v Bulls 41 | 28
Sun, 11 March 2018
Wales v Italy 38 | 14
Sat, 10 March 2018
Jaguares v Waratahs 38 | 28
France v England 22 | 16
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