July 31 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
England star Billy Vunipola says Saracens must believe in themselves and put everything into their final two games as they bid for a domestic and European trophy double.
Vunipola and company booked their place in the May 31 Aviva Premiership final against Northampton after toppling Harlequins 31-17 in the semi-final of the play-offs at Allianz Park at the weekend.
Now the focus switches immediately to this Saturday’s Heineken Cup final against holders Toulon in Cardiff, where Saracens will bid to become the fifth English European champions after Bath, Northampton, Leicester and Wasps.
It is uncharted territory for the Hendon outfit, who have never contested the European final before – and number eight Vunipola says the squad must throw everything they have at the two games which will make or break their campaign.
“We have to go after it,” he said. “If we take our foot off the gas we are destined to fail, so that’s how we have to approach it. It’s two more weeks. They’re tough games, but we have to attack it or we’ll get hurt.
“I think we have the gas in the tank to handle it. We’re fit players, we have great coaches and hopefully we can come up with plans to win both games.
“We don’t like to talk about ourselves too much, but we have the firepower to do it [and win the double]. We have the coaches to come up with plans that can turn these two teams over.
“They [Toulon] are a very good team. They have superstars littered throughout their line-up, but they still play as a team.
“They’re similar to us, they suffocate teams. They did it to Munster [in the semi-final] and they did it to Racing Metro.
“I keep going back to it, I have confidence that our coaches have a plan to deal with them, and hopefully we can get over the line.”
Last year Saracens lost in the semi-finals of both the Premiership and the Heineken Cup.
But they have taken a big step forward in each competition this term and are now preparing for two cup finals which could be watched by a combined audience of more than 150,000 people at the Millennium Stadium and Twickenham.
Director of rugby Mark McCall said: “We’ve got some demons from the past in these semi-finals. Our season was over this time 12 months ago and we just had regrets.
“This time, after coming top of the Premiership by a long way, I thought we deserved to win the game [against Harlequins].
“To play the way we played against Clermont two weeks ago and then back that up with that second-half performance shows we’ve come a long way as a squad in the last 12 months.
“You just have to experience things and go through things.
“We’ve had five years of building to this point. It hasn’t all gone smoothly. There’s been some big setbacks, as well as some triumphs.
“You put all of those things in the melting pot and the players are more mature and better than two years ago.
“The players have got to be unbelievably disciplined away from the club, which they will be, and everyone is excited about the next fortnight.”