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Dan Carter installs Saracens as favourites for Champions Cup

Dan Carter has installed Saracens as favourites for the Champions Cup title when his Racing 92 side face the Aviva Premiership club in Europe's showpiece battle next month.

Carter booted 11 points and helped nullify Manu Tuilagi as Racing edged out Leicester Tigers 19-16 at Nottingham's City Ground in Sunday's Champions Cup semi-final.

Maxime Machenaud claimed Racing's sole try and bossed the French side's attacking game, before later claiming the Parisians would seek "revenge" against Saracens for last term's 12-11 quarter-final defeat at the hands of the Londoners.

Telusa Veianu plundered a last-gasp try for Leicester, but the Tigers were left to rue a mistake-ridden performance in failing to reach their first final since 2007.

"I'd have thought Saracens would be favourites," said Carter, already weighing up the May 14 final in Lyon.

"They've probably performed best in this tournament and deserve their spot in the final.

"They've been leading the way, top of the points table at the end of the pool stages and have continued their form in the quarter-final and semi-final, so it's going to be a tough game for us.

"I've played against Owen Farrell a few times internationally, he's a great competitor, very physical, and he really leads that Saracens side extremely well.

"So I'm looking forward to coming up against him and that Saracens side.

"They've been the form side of the European Champions cup and deserve their sport in the final.

"It's pretty special, part of the reason why I came here was to play in this competition and for the team to play extremely well and reach the final, it's exciting."

Racing's reward for reaching their first European final is to face English champions Saracens, who saw off compatriots Wasps 24-17 in Reading on Saturday.

While Carter was busy talking up Mark McCall's side as favourites, scrum-half Machenaud was targeting Racing getting their own back for last term's last-eight defeat to the English side.

Marcelo Bosch's late long-range penalty sunk Racing in the quarter-finals last season, and Machenaud admitted that loss still sticks in the Parisians' craw.

He said: "We're out for revenge against Saracens: that's what we wanted and now we have three weeks to get ready for it.

"I still remember the game very well, it was a very physical match because they have very powerful forwards.

"Their team hasn't changed much so the game will be very similar."

World Cup-winner Carter is now within touching distance of adding yet another major trophy to his haul of global rugby silverware.

Former All Blacks wing Joe Rokocoko believes Carter can secure "another fairytale ending" by driving Racing to European glory, to add to his four Super Rugby titles, nine Rugby Championship wins and that 2015 World Cup triumph.

"His experience of big pressure games like this, he's still driven to be the best player he can be for the team - and then for himself afterwards," said Rokocoko, of Carter.

"Making finals rugby is something every player strives for and if we can go all the way it will just be another fairytale ending for him."

Leicester boss Rickard Cockerill was left frustrated with referee Nigel Owens' refereeing of the scrummaging battle, but insisted his side will not brood over their defeat.

"We don't do sulking, we've just got to crack on: we've lost and that's the game," said Cockerill.

"We've got six days until we play Worcester in the Premiership, and we've got to secure our place in the top four and victory over Worcester will do that.

"We can't change it, so we'll look forward to trying to secure the top four and a league semi-final.

"I was disappointed in some of the consistency around the refereeing at the scrum. Their loosehead was penalised five times and warned that if he did it again he would go to the bin.

"Our system was broken down in defence right at the start and we leaked seven points in a three-point ball game.

"You take the dodgy penalty from the scrum and that's 10 points."


From Belfast Telegraph