Heineken Cup: Mark McCall believes Saracens are ready for the challenge of Clermont
Last Updated: 24/04/14 5:48pm
Mark McCall insists Saracens boast a “genuine sense of belief” ahead of their Heineken Cup semi-final showdown with Clermont at Twickenham on Saturday.
Almost two years ago, the London club were beaten 22-3 by the French giants in the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier rugby competition.
Now, Saracens have the opportunity to exact revenge and show evidence of their remarkable progress in recent years as Clermont arrive in the English capital, with a place in the Heineken Cup final at stake.
McCall admits their defeat at Vicarage Road was a heavy blow to take and concedes they were outplayed by an explosive Top 14 side.
"We would hold our hands up and say that day, which was just over two years ago now, was a little bit men against boys," the Saracens director of rugby said.
"We felt we were playing with one hand tied behind our back a little bit – we were a bit lightweight to be honest.
"We changed a lot after that, changed the way we went about things in the strengthening and conditioning department because we were fighting against people who were more powerful, more explosive than us."
After three successive seasons in the Heineken Cup knockout stages, McCall insists Saracens are more adept to the challenge posed by Vern Cotter’s power-packed outfit.
"To be part of the same four teams who were in the semi-finals last year is good and it's a sign of where we are as a club, but we think we can go one better this year," he claimed.
"There's a real genuine belief that we're in good form, we're a better team than we were 12 months ago and our game has evolved."
He added: "This group has been together for five years.
"They've played together a lot and have been through a lot of experiences together on the field during that time - highs, lows, setbacks, triumphs.
"I think we're as ready as we've ever been to meet a challenge like this."
There's a real genuine belief that we're in good form, we're a better team than we were 12 months ago and our game has evolved.
Despite reaching the final four in Europe and being nine points clear at the Aviva Premiership summit, McCall is not willing to settle for being in contention as he outlined his longing for silverware.
"Just to get through to the semi-finals isn't enough for this group now, we need to kick on and win something," he insisted.
"We all want to win trophies and we know how difficult it is to win trophies.
"Clermont have been in the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup for seven years but have never won it, you would have thought they had the best squad and the best team in Europe for a long time but they've only won it once.
"We know how difficult it is to win things but we've got ourselves into a cracking situation and we need to take advantage of it this time around."