Saracens head to Barcelona

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 06:21

REACTION: Title-holders Saracens headed to Barcelona the morning after reaching the European Champions Cup Final in a bid to further strengthen their team spirit as they go in search of another 'double'.

Saracens, also the reigning English champions, refused to be cowed by a hostile crowd as they swept Munster aside 26-10 in an impressive semifinal win at Dublin's Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

They will now face French giants Clermont in the Final at Edinburgh's Murrayfield on May 13.

Saracens may rest some of their star players when they face already relegated Bristol in the English Premiership on Saturday.

Then comes a clash with domestic title rivals Wasps before their trip to Scotland for the European Final and a return to England for the knockout stages of the Premiership season.  

"We're flying out to Barcelona for a day or two's team-building," said Saracens hooker Schalk Brits.

"Of course we're going there for a debrief on what happened against Munster and a video session! Unfortunately, rugby gets in the way of our social activities!," the South African added.

"We're going to look at the architecture and all the sights."

Saracens have established a reputation for unorthodox away trips, which Brits insisted were about more than simply having a good time.

"That's what makes this club quite a special place. The rugby's important but the individual comes first.

"Sometimes people wonder how you get an extra five percent out of a player; how can you get him up off the ground," the 35-year-old Springbok explained.

"If you feel so much love for the team and want to earn the respect of the guy next to you.

"People defend for each other because they want to, not because they get paid. They want to earn respect - and have fun in Barcelona together!"

That defensive commitment was evident as they soaked wave after wave of Munster attacks without allowing the Irish side to cross their line.

Saracens then struck after the break, with England prop Mako Vunipola and replacement wing Chris Wyles both scoring tries.

The match also saw Vunipola and his brother Billy, the Saracens and England No.8, display kicking skills worthy of backs.

One touch-finder from Mako in particular on the stroke of half-time would not have shamed a top-class flyhalf.

"Mako kicking is a ridiculous sight to see because you think, 'Oh, he must be messing around', but he can drop-goal the ball from anywhere," said Saracens and Scotland second row Jim Hamilton.

"He can kick the ball off the tee, pass off the left, pass off the right, put a 40 or 50-metre pass in - it is ridiculous the skill-set of these guys."

Asked to comment on his kicking game, Mako Vunipola said: "I practise my kicking more than I do my scrummaging. I probably need to turn that round a bit!"

As for that touch-finder, the 26-year-old loosehead was disappointed the ball had gone out of play. 

"I actually wasn't too pleased with it, I thought it was a chance to score."

Mako Vunipola, selected last week for the British and Irish Lions upcoming tour of New Zealand, said the days when props were required to do little other than scrum had long gone. 

"It's not enough just to be a set-piece prop any more," he explained.

"You need to be able to function in a defensive system. You're going to have a role to play in the kicking game and also in any attack. You can't really carry passengers in any part of the team any more."

Agence France-Presse

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EUROPEAN CUP
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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