Belfast Telegraph

McCall has European glory in his sights for Saracens


By Ruadhri O'Connor

Tomorow, in case you didn't realise, the Champions Cup final between Clermont and Ulsterman Mark McCall's Saracens will take place in Edinburgh.

You'll remember the semi-finals, given they dominated the sporting agenda three weeks ago when Leinster and Munster still had an interest in the competition and the Aviva Stadium and Lyon's Stade Gerland were building up to sold-out games.

Those clashes, Clermont's win over Leinster in particular, should have infused the competition with momentum but rarely has a showpiece final been as quiet in the build-up.

The SRU have been heavily pushing tickets to avoid the sight of vast swathes of empty seats at Murrayfield.

Even the all-Irish Guinness PRO12 final last year didn't come close to selling out and, while there were two more weeks to build up to this one, the likelihood is that the venue will not be full.

Since the tournament changed hands, organisers European Professional Club Rugby have come in for plenty of stick but they can't choose who their finalists are.

Had the final been in France, Clermont's colourful fans would travel in droves but getting to Scotland is both tricky and expensive.

As for Saracens, their fanbase growth simply hasn't kept pace with their rapid development on the pitch.

The timing of the World Cup draw and the Lions' 'messy Monday' haven't helped in building momentum.

You may think the lack of coverage is down to the fact that this is an Irish newspaper and there are no Irish teams, but you have to scroll pretty far down the Telegraph's rugby web-page to find a mention of what is European rugby's showpiece event.

It's a shame, because it could be a cracking game.

Last year's final was ruined by the conditions as Sarries' pragmatic approach saw them claw their way past Racing 92.

Their stifling defence attracts the most interest, but in good conditions McCall's side can really play.

Clermont, meanwhile, are always good to watch and are usually able to play it through a power-game or with an expansive approach.

Perhaps what EPCR need more than anything is a breakthrough win for the perennial bridesmaids who so often light up this tournament with their brand of rugby and colourful fans.

If the bookies are correct, then the romantics will be left disappointed.

All the organisers will care about is a game that recaptures the public imagination.

Belfast Telegraph

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