Strettle says Clermont can stun 'No.1' Saracens

Thu, 11 May 2017 09:13
Large david strettle clermont 800

CHAMPIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: David Strettle has insisted Clermont head into their European Champions Cup Final against his former side Saracens at Murrayfield on Saturday confident of dethroning the continent's "number one" club.

Saracens, both the reigning English and European champions, will be looking to complete the first half of a 'double Double'.

But England wing Strettle, who left the London club for Clermont two years ago, said the French side could upset the odds in Edinburgh.

"They are for me the number one team in Europe," Strettle told AFP in an interview.

"Saracens don't have a bad day, they are consistently good."

But Strettle, who scored a superb try in Clermont's 27-22 semifinal win over Irish giants Leinster, added: "However, Clermont's good days are better than Saracens' good days so if we are playing well, we can win."

Clermont though must overcome their reputation as 'nearly men' if they are to triumph at Murrayfield.

The club have won just one of their 12 finals in France's domestic Top 14 (in 2010) and their two previous European Cup Final appearances saw them beaten by French rivals Toulon in 2013 and 2015.

Two second-tier European Challenge Cup wins have done little to ease the disappointment of their loyal 'Yellow Army' of supporters.

"It doesn't affect me if Clermont have won or lost eleven, twelve finals," said the 33-year-old Strettle. 

"That shouldn't affect me, I am playing just the one game, in my head it is the same. The players just have to ignore the history, it's just one game. For the fans, it's different."

Not that he was underestimating the task ahead of Clermont.

"Saracens' key players are all very young. You have Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Alex Goode, George Kruis, Jamie George. 

"They are now playing for England, for the British and Irish Lions. They now have that big-game experience, so the team has evolved."

By moving to France, Strettle effectively ended his international career, given England's refusal to pick overseas-based players save in "exceptional circumstances".

Strettle had no regrets, given that when he moved it was two years since he'd won the last of his 14 England caps.

"In the two years before I left Saracens, I was playing very well but not being picked [by England] - I  was always on the verge.

"So I just thought I am probably not going to get picked so I won't let that change my decision."

By joining Clermont, Strettle was following a path trodden by fellow English flyer Nick Abendanon, who made the same move a year earlier.

"I rang Nick and then I came to Clermont to have a look around," he explained.

"It was good to speak to Nick and I felt a lot more confident with my decision."

But it was not just his own life Strettle was changing by joining Clermont.

"My fiancée, she had a very good job working in insurance in London. But Phoebe's father speaks fluent French. Phoebe has always been around French culture, so she was very interested to come over as well and she likes it."

Had he stayed, Strettle could have enjoyed a brilliantly successful career with Saracens.

But he insisted medals were not everything.

"Having played in the Premiership for over 10 years, I had the opportunity of a new experience, playing for one of the biggest teams in Europe, in a country where rugby is like football in England - it is the main passion.

"I did not just move because of rugby, I wanted a different life experience...When I look back on my career, I will not judge it just on trophies."

Agence France-Presse

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Fri, 15 December 2017
Ulster v Harlequins 19h45 Kingspan Stadium
Sat, 16 December 2017
Montpellier v Glasgow Warriors 13h00 Altrad Stadium
Treviso v Scarlets 13h00 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Leinster v Exeter Chiefs 15h15 Aviva Stadium
Racing Metro v Castres 15h15 Stade Yves-du-Manoir
Bath v Toulon 17h30 Recreation Ground
Sun, 17 December 2017
Wasps v La Rochelle 13h00 Ricoh Arena
Clermont Auvergne v Saracens 15h15 Stade Marcel-Michelin
Ospreys v Northampton Saints 15h15 Liberty Stadium
Leicester Tigers v Munster 17h30 Welford Road
Mon, 11 December 2017
Saracens v Clermont Auvergne 14 | 46
Sun, 10 December 2017
Exeter Chiefs v Leinster 8 | 18
Harlequins v Ulster 5 | 17
La Rochelle v Wasps 49 | 29
Sat, 09 December 2017
Munster v Leicester Tigers 33 | 10
Castres v Racing Metro 16 | 13
Northampton Saints v Ospreys 32 | 43
Toulon v Bath 24 | 20
Scarlets v Treviso 33 | 28
Fri, 08 December 2017
Glasgow Warriors v Montpellier 22 | 29
Sun, 03 December 2017
Harlequins v Saracens 20 | 19
Sat, 02 December 2017
Cheetahs v Scarlets 28 | 21
Munster v Ospreys 36 | 10
Wasps v Leicester Tigers 32 | 25
Treviso v Leinster 10 | 36
Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
La Rochelle 3 3 0 0 15
Ulster 3 1 0 2 8
Wasps 3 1 0 2 6
Harlequins 3 0 0 3 1
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 3 3 0 0 14
Saracens 3 2 0 1 10
Ospreys 3 1 0 2 8
Northampton Saints 3 0 0 3 1
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 3 3 0 0 14
Exeter Chiefs 3 2 0 1 8
Montpellier 3 1 0 2 8
Glasgow Warriors 3 0 0 3 1
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 3 2 1 0 11
Castres 3 1 1 1 7
Leicester Tigers 3 1 0 2 6
Racing Metro 3 1 0 2 6
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Toulon 3 3 0 0 12
Bath 3 2 0 1 9
Scarlets 3 1 0 2 7
Treviso 3 0 0 3 3