Experienced Sarries in confident mood

Date published: January 24 2015

Saracens defence coach Paul Gustard reckons his team have the experience required to upset Clermont at their fortress in the Auvergne on Sunday.

Saracens have won the last two meetings between these sides including a remarkable 46-6 triumph in last year’s semi-final as well as victory at home in Round One of this season’s campaign.

But Clermont have proved to be near-unbeatable at Parc de Sports Marcel-Michelin in recent years. That said, Saracens will travel to France buoyed by the confidence gained from last weekend’s big win over European heavyweights Munster.

The winner in France will progress to the quarter-finals while every bonus point will be vital with the losers facing elimination from the tournament.

“We do pretty well in these sort of environments,” Gustard told the Saracens website.

“We have a lot of international players ourselves now. It’s been often been mentioned about Saracens, and the journey we have been on in the last four of five years but this is a different group of players.

“They are the same people, but these lads now have 20 caps, 30 caps for their countries. They are a lot more experienced and have won in big games in Europe – so we’re in a good place.

“Clermont are one of the best teams in Europe, of that there’s no doubt.

“Of the last 10, 12 years they have historically, despite not winning something, been there-or-thereabouts. From 1-23, or 1-33 probably, they have some unbelievable players and we’re well aware of the task that it will be to go over there and come away with a result.”

“We’re off the back of great confidence building win over Munster and we’re relishing the challenge.”

Clermont coach Franck Azema knows his team face a big challenge.

“We are looking forward to Sunday,” he said.

“When these big games arrive, the players should not cower. Instead, you have to be excited to deliver a big game.

“We had a good game there [at Saracens] but lost out because we paid heavily for small details. Saracens were pragmatic but it is their strength.

“I’m not surprised by what they have built today. They are a big European team, who are used to playing in the semi-finals and finals. You cannot play at this level without quality in all your positions. Along with Toulon, they are one of the best teams of the competition.”