Saracens won't be bullied for a second time
April 23, 2014
Saracens came off second best when the two sides met in the Heineken Cup in 2012 © Getty Images
There will be no repeat of the drubbing Saracens suffered when they met Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup two seasons ago, insists director of rugby Mark McCall. That match, he said, was a watershed for the club and when the sides meet at Twickenham this weekend it will be an altogether different contest.
In the quarter-final clash in 2012 Clermont romped to a 22-3 victory, leading to a complete rethink within Saracens as to the way forward. So they decided to go big.
"We would hold our hands up and say that day two years ago was a little bit men against boys, but it's not going to be like that this weekend," McCall said. "We were a bit lightweight, fighting against people who were more powerful, more explosive, bigger. But we changed a lot after that.
"We changed the way we went about things in the strength and conditioning department, changed the people that we had here and changed our recruitment policy.
"When we first came, we set out to be the fittest team around. Take someone like Will Fraser [a flanker]. He was 99kg and as brave and tough as they come, yet he was playing against people 10kg heavier. So we changed things. Now Will is 108kg. It's not just weight he's put on; it's the right kind of weight. He is more powerful, more explosive, quicker. He is a better rugby player."
He said the key signing since the 2012 game was Philip Morrow, who had been looking after the fitness with Ireland. "He changed everything from top to bottom from the performance side of things."
As for Clermont, McCall said they were not invincible. "You would have thought that they have been the best squad and the best team in Europe for a long time and yet they haven't won the Heineken Cup and have only won the Top 14 once.
"We know how difficult it is to win things but we've got ourselves into a cracking situation and need to take advantage of it. Just to get to the semi-finals for this group of players is not enough any more. We need to kick on and win something."
"We know what we are up against but we think we can go one better," McCall said. "We're playing better, our game has evolved, we have players in form and we're going into the game with much more confidence than last year's semi-final, when I think that we were a little bit happy to be there."
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