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Barritt: No let-up from Saracens

Brad Barritt says there will be no let-up in terms of Saracens "pounding the rock" this week as they build towards a European Champions Cup semi-final showdown against French giants Clermont Auvergne.

Saracens have taken inspiration from reigning NBA champions San Antonio Spurs after reaching the business-end of a season that could see Barritt and company complete an immense trophy treble.

Victory over Clermont in Saint Etienne next Saturday would take Saracens into a second successive European final, while they also remain firmly on course for an Aviva Premiership home play-off tie and have already secured LV= Cup silverware.

"We have spoken about the mantra of pounding the rock, and that is what we have aimed to do this season," said England centre Barritt, who made his comeback from an ankle injury in Saracens' 22-6 Premiership victory over Leicester.

"It is keeping on what we have been doing, learning to get better and keep pushing each other on and on. That is what has got us in this position and what will carry us through this next eight weeks.

"It (pounding the rock) was born from the concept of what the San Antonio Spurs had done.

"They had obviously been quite disappointed in losing two NBA finals, and the third time they were able to keep at what they did and it turned out successful for them.

"We have taken a leaf out of that book, and hopefully it spurs us on this season."

Saracens, whose bid to topple Clermont should be strengthened by Owen Farrell's availability three months after he suffered a knee injury against the same opponents in a Champions Cup pool game, will start as underdogs as Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

They have faced Clermont on six occasions since 2010, losing four times and winning twice, with victories coming at Allianz Park earlier this season and last year's record 46-6 European semi-final triumph at Twickenham.

"It's huge," Barritt added. "We obviously have a great rivalry with Clermont, spanning back three or four years, and yeah, the guys are buzzing.

"The grit and determination they showed last week (Saracens beat quarter-final opponents Racing Metro 12-11 in Paris) to get us into this position, it's only fair we go there and put in a great performance.

"Each time we play Clermont it is going to be a big opportunity and a big occasion."

Saracens will head to France holding second place in the Premiership after tries during a nine-minute spell by Billy Vunipola, Marcelo Bosch and Chris Wyles meant that Leicester were comfortably brushed aside.

It was Saracens' fourth successive league win, keeping them firmly on course for a potential Twickenham return next month after Northampton denied them the title with a try in the final minute of extra-time last season.

"Last season, we had an upward trajectory the whole season. I think it was a record for points scored and tries scored, and we were top of the Premiership with three or four games to go," Barritt said.

"This year, there have been some ups and downs, and the character shown throughout has been monumental.

"We like to think that as a team we are now peaking towards the end of the season, and that will hopefully stand us in good stead for the next two months.

"If we keep winning games, our destiny is in our own hands."

For the next seven days, though, all focus will be on Clermont, with Saracens rugby director Mark McCall accepting that the degree of difficulty facing his players is a considerable one.

"Clermont are a club I admire enormously," McCall said.

"They have lost a lot of semi-finals and finals over the years, but they keep coming back for more - they keep improving.

"Their performance against Northampton (in the quarter-finals) was as good as anything that has been played by a club side this season, so we have got to try to find a way to put them under some pressure and put them in some difficult positions."


From Belfast Telegraph