Scott Quinnell looks at whether Saracens can stop the Toulon juggernaut from winning another Heineken Cup title
By Scott Quinnell. Last Updated: 23/05/14 8:52am
Juan Smith: won't shy away from the physical battle
Saturday is going to be one heck of a game and I cannot wait to see Toulon and Saracens go hammer and tongs at each other. Both are in fine form and playing some excellent rugby in both attack and defence.
The defence that Saracens brought to the Clermont game was exceptional and if they can replicate that then they will make it very difficult for Toulon. Toulon are not short of physicality themselves though and the likes of Steffon Armitage, Juan Smith, Bakkies Botha, Ali Williams and Chris Masoe will be relishing the challenge of Jacques Burger and co. I am expecting a humdinger of a game in what should be a highly emotional day.
"The defence that Saracens brought to the Clermont game was exceptional and if they can replicate that then they will make it very difficult for Toulon."
I am not taking anything away from Saracens performance against Clermont which was exceptional, but I do feel Clermont were naive in their game plan and failed to adapt. Clermont with all their stars and experience played too wide and too early and not in the right areas. Saracens defence was superb and they were able to counter-attack through that fantastic defensive display. Clermont could not react or adapt and that is what cost them. I can’t see Toulon being caught like Clermont were.
No matter who Toulon pick in the forwards they are going to be massive. Toulon look to grind sides down through their forwards. There are some very cagey operators in this Toulon side and I think the front row will certainly be targeting Mako Vunipola and Matt Stevens when he comes on. Carl Hayman has the reputation and the experience to dominate most loosehead props, but he also has the ability to be seen to be doing nothing wrong! I think whoever manages the referee on the day will get the upper hand at the scrum.
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Jonny Wilkinson will kick for territory and get his juggernaut pack going forward. They slowly build a lead and before you know it you can be six, nine, 12 points down. Saracens showed a bit of indiscipline against Harlequins last week and they cannot afford to do that on Saturday. They will need to be more aware at the breakdown, especially as Steffon Armitage has made such an impact in that area – Saracens have a pretty well balanced back row to counter attack the likes of Armitage at the breakdown though.
A great contest
Wilkinson vs Owen Farrell is going to be another great contest – we saw them battle it out last year at Twickenham in the semi-final where Jonny came out on top. Not many will be betting against him on Saturday but Farrell is a better player than he was last year – in fact the whole of this Saracens team are. They have grown as a team and their performances have got better and better.
I have no doubt that Saracens have the talent and the ability to win the Heineken Cup. However Toulon just seem to be a bit bigger and a bit stronger. The question for Saracens is can they stop this Toulon juggernaut from coming at them? Well if they played like they did against Clermont then they will certainly have a good chance.
Catch the Heineken Cup Final between Toulon and Saracens from 4pm, Sat, Sky Sports 2HD