Saracens v Racing 92 - Talking points
Saracens will face powerhouse Parisians Racing 92 in Saturday's European Champions Cup final in Lyon on Saturday. Here, Press Association Sport examines five key talking points for the showpiece showdown.
SARACENS WILL BE WASTING THEIR TIME TRYING TO GET CARTER:
Leicester failed to keep their promise not to fixate on Dan Carter in their 19-16 Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Racing 92. The Tigers duly went hunting the All Black World Cup winner, only to find the masterful fly-half always just out of reach. The temptation to go after the New Zealand great is overwhelming, but Saracens must not fall into the very same trap as Leicester. Carter's ability to shape-shift around Racing's full inside-back cordon leaves him almost impossible to pin down. So Saracens must defend each circumstance on its own merits, rather than fret about Racing's linchpin.
MACHENAUD WILL LOOK TO MASTERMIND RACING'S PLAY
If Carter pulls the strings across the midfield, the man who generates the time and space for him to do just that is France scrum-half Maxime Machenaud. Les Bleus' general knows just how to marshal a backline, but more than that, takes both pressure and focus off his half-back partner Carter at Racing. The further away from the breakdown that Saracens allow Machenaud to operate, the more havoc he will wreak. If Saracens shut him down at source, then they will have hit their first objective in the daunting battle to keep Carter quiet.
A CLASH OF TWO MEAN AND MISERLY DEFENCES COULD CAUSE AN INTRIGUING STAND-OFF
Arguably Europe's top two defences will collide in all their mean-spirited glory in Lyon this weekend. Saracens have long since been famed for their ability not just to shut out opponents, but also to wield their brutal defensive strategy as an attacking weapon all of its own. Racing have done likewise in their measured rise to prominence in the French Top 14. Former Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara has whipped the Parisians into a formidable defensive unit this term, as finely evidenced in that semi-final victory over Leicester.
CAN MARO ITOJE AND GEORGE KRUIS REPEAT THEIR SIX NATIONS HEROICS WITH ENGLAND ON EUROPE's BIGGEST CLUB STAGE:
Maro Itoje was playing LV=Cup rugby just last season. His meteoric rise to Test prominence since, albeit despite missing out on the World Cup squad, has garnered as much attention in rugby circles as Leicester City's smash-and-grab Premier League title drive. Itoje and Kruis underscored everything industrious and intelligent about England's Grand Slam Six Nations campaign. Now the Saracens team-mates have the chance for yet more glory on French soil after England swept the Grand Slam in Paris, now the men in black's finest can put another one over the French this weekend. The lock pairing have coped with every physical demand placed upon them so far this term, but will most likely face another step up on Saturday.
WILL RACING'S WIDE MEN HAVE THE CHANCE TO DAZZLE:
Racing's former All Black wing Joe Rokocoko has packed more than most into his stellar rugby career, and at 32 the powerful finisher is still in fine fettle. Last year he suffered relegation from the Top 14 with Bayonne, but now he is on the cusp of a remarkable trophy-winning return to the big time. Argentina flyer Juan Imhoff offers a constant menace on the other wing, with Brice Dulin also a dangerous counter-attacking option. As much as Saracens have expanded their own front-foot repertoire in recent times, Mark McCall's men must be on point at every turn to keep their French foes at bay.