McCall wants to be Euro force
Saracens boss sets sights on European glory
Last Updated: April 7, 2012 1:27pm
Mark McCall: Wants Saracens to become a major force in Europe
Saracens boss Mark McCall wants the reigning Premiership champions to establish themselves as a major force in European rugby.
Sarries have never reached the final of the Heineken Cup, in fact they have only made it beyond the Pool stage once when they reached the semi-final in 2008 before losing 18-16 to Munster in Coventry.
A win on Sunday over Clermont Auvergne would equal that achievement and set up a clash with Leinster or Cardiff Blues at Twickenham on April 29.
And McCall feels that his ambitious side need to be reaching the business end of the competition every season.
"Competing with the elite of Europe in the knockout stages of tournaments is where we want to be - both now and in the future," the Saracens coach said.
"If you look at the likes of Toulouse, Leicester, Leinster and Munster, these are teams who have created a legacy in Europe. We want to do the same.
"But we know the size of the challenge in front of us.
"Looking through the Clermont squad, you will see a number of very familiar names from both the club and world stage. It's a massive game and the kind of contest that we relish."
Centre Brad Barritt feels that Saracens have improved since they lost home and away to Clermont in the pool stage of last year's competition.
"We are a lot more experienced and we've improved a lot tactically," Barritt said.
"We went to Clermont last year and went out to really impose our game on them.
"I think in terms of ball in play, it may have looked pretty, but it was probably a little bit tactically naive. I think we had 65 or 70% possession, but they got tries off the back of our naivety.
"I think we've come a long way in terms of how we impose the Saracens way on teams, and that is definitely something that will stand us in good stead going into this game.
"It's a massive opportunity for us now at home to proceed to a Heineken Cup semi-final. It is a huge chance to take that next step in Europe."
The match pitches Barritt against Clermont's French midfield pairing of Aurelien Rougerie and Wesley Fofana just four weeks after England toppled Les Bleus 24-22 in Paris.
"Both Rougerie and Fofana are terrific players. They've formed a great combination for club and country," Barritt added.
"We do our studies and analysis, but when it comes to a game like this you've got to focus on what you want to do as a team first.
"We obviously have our defensive principles, and that is one of our strengths. They are both great players, like I say, but it's about us imposing our game on them as well.
"Clermont are a terrific side. They were the Top 14 champions two years ago and they are splattered with great talent."
Seasoned European campaigners Clermont are competing in their ninth Heineken Cup, but are yet reach the semi-finals of the tournament, but that is something they are determined to put right.
"Before I came to France a lot of people thought that the Top 14 was all the French clubs cared about, but it is most certainly is not like that now," Clermont's Wales international full-back Lee Byrne said.
"The aims of the club this season are to go for the double of the Heineken Cup and the Top 14 and we feel we have the strength in the squad to have a really good crack at both tournaments."