July 29 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Alistair Hargreaves says Saturday’s Heineken Cup final is the biggest match of his career – but he hopes Saracens captain Steve Borthwick will overcome injury to take his place in the starting line-up.
Sarries will contest their first ever European Cup final when they face Jonny Wilkinson’s Toulon – the current holders – in Cardiff this weekend.
A pectoral injury could deny skipper Borthwick the chance to finish his decorated 16-year career with back-to-back Heineken Cup and Aviva Premiership finals, as Saracens chase a magnificent double ahead of his retirement this summer.
The former England captain must train today (Thursday) to prove his fitness, otherwise four-cap Springboks second row Hargreaves will take his place.
Hargreaves said: “Saturday’s game probably is the biggest of my career, but I’ll prepare the same as always to make sure I’m ready.
“You try not to let the occasion overwhelm you, so our preparation is pretty consistent. Mentally that helps me not to build it up too much in my head.
“Hopefully Steve will recover in time, we all want him to be able to finish in style.
“We all owe a duty to Steve, he’s such a massive part of this club and the revolution of this club. In the back of our minds we’d like to send him off on the right note.”
On the other side of the fence, Toulon talisman Wilkinson will also be aiming to go out on a high by lifting the Heineken Cup again after the England legend announced that he too is calling time on his 17-year career.
Saracens’ Matt Stevens played with the World Cup-winning fly-half in England colours, and he said: “Jonny’s been a force of nature in the Premiership, in international rugby, the top 14 – he’s done it all, the guy’s a legend.
“I don’t think we can nullify what he does but it’s definitely something we take into account when we prepare.
“He sets an incredible example. I remember I played for England with him, he was someone you looked up to and you tried to strive for perfection.
“I don’t think I ever got anywhere near it but I strived for the perfection that he went for, and I think when you see someone like that in the squad, it ultimately raises your game.
“I know we have that at Saracens. Everyone is pushing each other and that’s the nature of a good team where you have good competition for places which we have throughout the squad.
“If everyone is pushing each other and no-one is sure of their place in the team, it just makes for a better team.”