Rugby Club: Richard Hill says Saracens can beat Clermont Auvergne

Last Updated: 25/04/14 10:59am

Billy Vunipola has added extra muscle to Saracens

Richard Hill is confident his former club Saracens can prevail in their Heineken Cup semi-final with Clermont Auvergne after learning from painful previous defeats to French opposition.

Saracens were not only beaten, but beaten up, in defeat to Clermont in the quarter-finals almost two years ago. And then last season they were similarly overpowered by eventual champions Toulon in the semi-final.

"Saracens will have to make sure the like of Jacques Burger is out there being a complete nuisance and torpedoing people nice and low."

Richard Hill

Hill, though, believes the recruitment of big Billy Vunipola, the England No 8, typifies a change in approach from Saracens - and one that can take them to their first Heineken Cup final with victory at Twickenham on Saturday.

"Mark McCall has been pretty up front and pretty honest about those defeats, particularly the one two years ago against Clermont where they were completely out-muscled. It was a complete eye opener," Hill told The Rugby Club.

"As a consequence it turned the club around on how they view their strength and condition, and also their recruitment policy.


"One of the biggest influences there has been Billy Vunipola and how he has come in and had a huge impact off the base of scrums and with ball in hand.

"Not only does he use his size and bulk to get through holes but it is also his off-loading ability [which is effective]."

Asked if Saracens can defeat Clermont, Hill added: "I believe Saracens can, yes. They have to make the most of what is deemed a home fixture at Twickenham and really get the crowd there behind them."


Hill, though, remains wary of the French giants who were runners up in the Heineken Cup last season and are reigning French Top 14 champions. And he says Saracens' renowned wolf pack will have to be at their defensive best.

Asked what he fears from Clermont, Hill said: "If they get the juggernaut going. It is the physicality of the likes of [Jamie] Cudmore and the big guys in the back row who punch holes. Once they get the momentum and get the forward motion, then they are a difficult team to stop.

"Saracens will have to make sure the like of Jacques Burger is out there being a complete nuisance and torpedoing people nice and low. "

Watch Saracens v Clermont Auvergne, Sat, 3.15pm, Sky Sports 2 HD