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European Champions Cup: We're out for revenge against Saracens vows Darren Cave

Cave fires warning ahead of key clash

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster will be out for revenge when Saracens visit Kingspan Stadium on Friday night but Darren Cave has warned the side must still focus on themselves rather than the opposition.

After Saturday's scheduled contest with Oyonnax was postponed in light of the Paris terror attacks the previous night, the visit from the London club represents the opening Champions Cup clash of the year for Les Kiss's side and a first meeting between the pair since Ulster suffered successive Heineken Cup quarter-final defeats in 2013 and '14.

When former Ulsterman Mark McCall last brought his side to Belfast two seasons ago, Jared Payne was shown a red card after just four minutes following an aerial challenge with Alex Goode and the hosts were left to battle in vain to a 17-15 defeat.

"I wouldn't say we owe them one, we owe them two," reflected Cave.

"We don't need any motivation but at the same time we know how good they are.

"We just need to focus on ourselves, get ourselves right, and hopefully if we do that we can put them under pressure and see if we can get the result we want."

While Ulster's players were in the air on the way back from France when Saracens were defeating an understandably subdued Toulouse side to the tune of 32 points to seven on Saturday evening, Cave noted the scale of the achievement.

"Running up 32 points against Toulouse is impressive obviously but we knew already how good a side they were.

"For us, we'll obviously not need to freshen up physically but maybe mentally after what's been a strange weekend and come in at the start of the week to get ready for a big game."

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Before the tragic events in the French capital, excitement in Oyonnax surrounding what would have been the Top 14 outfit's first game in Europe's premier competition was palpable, especially among local youths when the likes of Ruan Pienaar and Wiehahn Herbst joined them in the street for some kicking practice.

All throughout the small town in the Rhone-Alpes, the region's team colours were draped across houses while shops proudly displayed flags bearing the club crest in their windows.

Although local authorities remained keen to see the game go ahead, there was none of that carnival atmosphere come Saturday morning and Cave admitted that it would have been strange to play under such circumstances.

"Obviously we're just happy the decision was taken out of our hands. It was nothing to do with us, but they made the right decision.

"I heard about one of the incidents (on Friday night) but with the game the next day we were then away to bed so had no idea of the extent.

"We got up and it was all over social media, Twitter and Facebook, and straight away the doubts were creeping in about whether the game would go ahead.

"We had to prepare just as if it was on and actually got on the bus ready to go but Bryn Cunningham our team manager came aboard and told us that there was no sport going ahead in the country. From a player's point of view it's obviously frustrating but at the end of the day sometimes there are more important things than 80 minutes of rugby and it wouldn't really have felt right to go ahead.

"As we said, it wasn't our decision to make but I'm glad that, in my opinion, the people in charge came to the right one."

Cunningham, one of the team's contingent who did still make the trip to the Stade Charles Mathon from the hotel on Saturday, admitted that without a free weekend until after the start of the Six Nations it is hard to foresee when the game will be played but an answer from the EPCR is expected to come this week.

"Already our management team is planning the weeks and months ahead to see how our fixture list lies and any potential impact this will have," the former fullback said.

"Other teams will be doing the same thing and you just have to manage that.

"While we're considering that, our sympathy remains with everyone here."

Belfast Telegraph


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