This weekend will see Saracens take on Clermont Auvergne in Murrayfield in the Champions Cup Final. Saracens are looking to win a second straight title after defeating Racing 92 in last year’s Final. They will be well set to try and defend the title they won last season after their 26-10 win over Munster in the Semi Final on April 22nd in Dublin.
They have improved from last season and have expanded their game plan and look far more comfortable when they attack. They have a settled squad with players like Schalk Burger introduced to add an extra dimension to an already impressive squad.
Mark Mc Call has done some terrific work with this team and although they have been caught cold a few times in the Aviva Premiership , in Europe they have gone strength to strength and will fancy denying Clermont Auvergne a first European title. Maro Itoje is one player who has grown over the past 18 months from a dominant player who captained his country at the Under 20 World Championship. He is really starting to show that he will captain his club and maybe his country very soon.
It will be a very tight final and they won’t be any quarter given and Clermont Auvergne have been to this stage in Europe a few times with no success , people feel Munster have had all the hard luck stories in the Champions/Heineken Cup but Clermont have had just as many near misses although they did manage to win a French Championship in 2010.
Since then they have added players like Remi Lamerat and Camille Lopez to the squad and these additions in particular have helped keep Clermont Auvergne in a strong position in the Top 14 and get to the Champions Cup Final , they were last here in 2013 where faced a Toulon side inspired by Jonny Wilkinson.
Looking to this weekend , players like Camille Lopez and the English pair of Nick Abendanon and David Strettle will need to be firing on all cylinders to help Clermont wrestle the Champions Cup trophy away from the men from Allianz Park.
In Ireland earlier this year , we got to see some of the Clermont Auvergne squad up close and personal when Michael Murphy Donegal Footballer spent a week in Clermont-Ferrand getting to know the club and city a bit better.
It was a good programme to give you an insight into how the club is run and the love the players have for the club and how they hope they can achieve big things while playing for the side.
Looking to the test they face this weekend , they have the players to beat Saracens but the one thing Saracens do have is previous experience of winning in European Finals whereas Clermont haven’t managed to get over the line but maybe just maybe this Saturday could be the day they change that fact !!
Cian Mc Gibney