Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

McCall demands sweeping improvements

Boss Mark McCall feels Saracens are in a better position for their Munster clash
Boss Mark McCall feels Saracens are in a better position for their Munster clash

Saracens boss Mark McCall has targeted an across-the-board improvement from his team in Sunday's Heineken Cup clash against Munster.

The sides are locked on 10 points each going into the Pool One encounter at Vicarage Road, with Munster winning last weekend's clash 15-9 in Limerick.

"I think we probably need to improve in all areas - we were well below our best last week," rugby director McCall said. "We set ourselves high standards as a team, and in certain areas (last Saturday) we felt that those standards fell short. We can rectify those areas and I think we'll be better on Sunday."

He continued: "There was nothing wrong with our effort and our physicality. In the second half the team showed a lot of character and a whole lot of fight to ensure we came away with something from the match.

"Munster is a difficult place to go, and when you think they have only lost three matches in something like 50-odd (Heineken Cup) games down the years (at home) it was always going to be tough.

"Now that the international players are back in our system we've had a good training week and a longer training week than when we had a six-day turnaround after the Gloucester league games, so I think we are in a much better position for this game."

Steve Borthwick skippers a Saracens team that includes current England internationals Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell, but Ireland centre Keith Earls misses out for Munster due to groin trouble, so Casey Laulala is recalled.

Sale Sharks enter the last-chance saloon in Pool Six when they head to Stade Felix Mayol for an appointment with one of the tournament favourites Toulon on Sunday. Sale lost 17-6 against Toulon on home soil last Saturday, but the French club's remarkable squad strength is illustrated through the power of their replacements' bench.

England internationals Jonny Wilkinson, Andrew Sheridan and Simon Shaw are among the substitutes, together with Argentina Test captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Carl Hayman. But the starting XV still contains players like Matt Giteau, Frederic Michalak, Gethin Jenkins, Bakkies Botha and Joe van Niekerk, which underlines Sale's degree of difficulty.

In Sunday's other game, Pool Four rivals Castres and Glasgow meet in France, where a victory for the home side would keep them in touch with group leaders Ulster. Glasgow, though, have collected just one point from three games.

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