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Chris Ashton hopes final failures can spur Saracens to glory

Published 24/04/2016

Saracens wing Chris Ashton is relishing the prospect of challenging for European Champions Cup glory next month
Saracens wing Chris Ashton is relishing the prospect of challenging for European Champions Cup glory next month

Chris Ashton believes Saracens are "in a good place" after positioning themselves for another full-blown assault on major European silverware.

The Aviva Premiership title-holders and current league leaders will head to Lyon next month where they can target European Champions Cup final glory after knocking out fellow English heavyweights Wasps.

Ashton has been a European finalist before - with Northampton in 2011 and then Saracens three years later - and lost on both occasions, while no English club has conquered Europe since Wasps managed it nine years ago.

And of those Premiership teams that have won the European title, only two - Bath (1998) and Leicester (2001) - did it on French soil.

"It is so tough to get to this final," Saracens and England wing Ashton said, following a 24-17 semi-final triumph at Reading's Madejski Stadium.

"Obviously, I have been there twice before, so it's third-time lucky. We have definitely got the team to do it.

"Wasps are an outstanding team. We did enough to get over them, and I still think we've got a bit left in us.

"Going down 7-0 quite early, it's easy to fold and take more points and try to fix it straight away, but we were quite comfortable with the situation we were in and always thought we could get ourselves back in the game.

"So I think that experience of previous years of being in these games, like the Toulon game (2014 final), is important. The team is in a good place.

"You've got to use the experience of being in previous finals. It is where you get that experience. I think you have to lose games like finals to finally win one. I just hope we've lost enough now.

"Finals are (decided on) fine margins. The last one against Toulon, it was one fluky bounce of the ball, (Drew) Mitchell catches it and (Matt) Giteau scores in the corner. That was the whole game, that was literally it.

"And the Northampton final (against Leinster) was a tale of two halves. Anything can happen in a final."

Saracens recovered from conceding a try after just 73 seconds to Wasps scrum-half Dan Robson - and some uncharacteristically wayward goalkicking by Owen Farrell - before claiming a victory that keeps them firmly on course for a domestic and European double.

And once again, it was their 21-year-old lock Maro Itoje who led the way, delivering another towering performance on a big stage just five weeks after helping England win a first Six Nations Grand Slam for 13 years.

"Maro has been outstanding all year," Ashton added.

"The group that has already moved up - Jamie (George), George (Kruis), Owen (Farrell) and all those lads - have already progressed as first-teamers and have all got the experience, and now it is the next batch coming through.

"(Itoje) has got the longest arms I have ever seen! I don't know how he does it. I was standing on the wing watching these arms go up, just stealing line-out after line-out. Him and George have had amazing seasons.

"Owen was pretty similar, the way he came through. They do stick out like sore thumbs (players of that ability).

"You can tell from a mile off. In training, from a young age, you could see it, and it was just a matter of time before the club put him (Itoje) in. It was the same with Owen, and he has just progressed."

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