December 6 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Friday, October 18, 2013
Alistair Hargreaves is hoping Saracens can follow the England football team by triumphing at Wembley Stadium tonight, as they take on four-times Heineken Cup champions Toulouse.
Rugby is making a temporary home at the headquarters of Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions, who booked their place at next summer’s World Cup with a 2-0 home win over Poland on Tuesday night.
With over 50,000 tickets sold, the match will be the largest-ever attendance for a European rugby group game in the UK, and Hargreaves said: “I watched it [the England football match] on the TV and it was an unbelievable game, so if we get half of that atmosphere it will be something really special.
“It’s great to see how people are responding to rugby in London and it [the turn-out] is certainly going to fire us up and motivate us.
“Wembley is world-class. We pride ourselves on being able to play our home matches at different places while producing the same kind of rugby that we know we are capable of.
“We are very comfortable there and we are just looking forward to getting stuck into a really tough Heineken Cup battle.”
Sarries are no strangers to the stadium, having played there nine times before – but Hargreaves hopes his latest trip isn’t as bad as his first in 2009, as he was part of an opposing South African side that lost to the Londoners.
“It was a day to forget at the time but quite funny now because I’m on the other side of the coin,” said the 27-year-old, who moved from Super 15 side Sharks to Saracens last summer.
“That was my first experience of Sarries as a club in general and it left quite an indelible mark on me. That’s when I started hearing more and more about them and they were really on the way up, or on the beginning of their arc as a Premiership team.
“So I started following them and people started paying attention, so when I got the call a few years later I was very familiar with them and knew a lot of the people here, so it was a logical next step.”
Saracens, who are unbeaten this term, sit second in Pool 3 behind Toulouse.
Hargreaves said: “You can’t doubt the fact that they are an exceptionally strong side and I’m sure, as always, they will be top contenders to challenge for the title again. It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“It certainly is a massive fixture, there’s no doubt about that.
“They have a lot of class and a lot of dangerous players all across the board.
“It’s hard to speculate because you never quite know what’s going to happen on the day, but we think we are in a pretty good position.
“We are lucky to have a lot of depth and a strong side to be able to choose from.
“We got to make sure we do what we do best and that’s play Sarries rugby.”
Hargreaves returns to the starting XV after coming off the bench in the win over Connacht and he will face face-off against a team full of his compatriots.
“Chiliboy Rapele is the guy I played a lot of rugby with, growing up,” the forward said. “He’s a new boy in their side and he’s going to be looking to impress.
“That’s going to be interesting and fun but there are a couple of good lads in that set-up and it will be interesting to do battle with them once again.
“There’s always a bit of healthy banter between mates and it will be great to see some familiar faces.
“I’m sure it will be an absolute war on the field but then we’ll look forward to a few beers to catch up afterward, once is all said and done on the field.”