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McCall: Farrell to return next week

Saracens boss Mark McCall has confirmed that England international Owen Farrell is on course to be available after injury for next Saturday's European Champions Cup semi-final showdown against Clermont Auvergne.

Fly-half Farrell has not played since suffering a knee problem during Saracens' pool stage defeat at Clermont's hands almost three months ago, missing the entire RBS 6 Nations Championship as a result.

"Owen Farrell should be fine for next week," said McCall after seeing his side brush off Aviva Premiership play-off rivals Leicester 22-6 at Allianz Park.

Whether Farrell starts the last-four clash in Saint Etienne or is among the replacements remains to be seen, but he will undoubtedly strengthen Saracens' bid to reach a second successive European final.

Saracens' brief return to domestic business six days after their last-gasp Champions Cup quarter-final victory over Racing Metro went pretty much according to plan.

They reclaimed second place in the Premiership from Bath after tries either side of half-time by number eight Billy Vunipola, centre Marcelo Bosch and wing Chris Wyles - plus two Charlie Hodgson conversions - left Leicester in disarray after they led 6-0 through two Freddie Burns penalties.

Hodgson added a 62nd-minute penalty as Leicester fell away in the second period, with Saracens scoring 15 unanswered points to ease home.

"There is a little bit of frustration in the dressing room because we scored our third try after 49 minutes, and not much happened after that from an attacking point of view," McCall said.

"But for me, the character, fight and energy we showed in the last 30 minutes to keep making tackles, it's pretty special. We have a group of guys who fight very hard for each other.

"We had a little purple patch when we scored three tries in nine minutes and these players keep on pitching up and finding ways to win. Overall, we are pretty pleased."

McCall, meanwhile, praised a "phenomenal" performance by England number eight Vunipola, who will undoubtedly be a key figure against Clermont.

"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."

For their part, Leicester are still hanging on to the fourth and final play-off spot with three games left, but their remaining fixtures feature appointments with Wasps and Northampton.

Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill said: "You have to be accurate. If you make errors and give them (Saracens) field position, they are good enough to punish you.

"We put pressure on ourselves at times but they took their tries very well. They are a good side and they do what they do very well.

"They work exceptionally hard in defence and we found them very hard to break down.

"You can't let the key moments get away from you because if you do you lose, and that's what happened today.

"We play London Welsh at home, we play Northampton at home and we go to Wasps, so everything is in our own hands.

"The challenge is for us to improve on what we did today. There is plenty of fight in us. We just need to be a bit smarter."


From Belfast Telegraph