Rugby Union: Saracens face crunch European Champions Cup game at home to Northampton Saints
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Sarries know a win is a must on Saturday if they are to progress to quarter-finals
Two-time defending European Champions Cup champions Saracens know even a win at home to Northampton Saints on Saturday might not be enough to remain in this season’s competition.
Ahead of the final round of matches, the north Londoners sit third in Pool Two, behind leaders Clermont Auvergne and Welsh side Ospreys.
The winners of each of the five pools will qualify for the quarter-finals, as will the three best runners-up.
There are a number of permutations that would see Saracens progress, but they all rely on the Allianz Park club beating Saints and results in other groups going their way.
Scoring four tries in a win over Northampton would certainly give Sarries the best chance of making it through, and director of rugby Mark McCall says that is how they must approach the game.
“We’ll try to play better than we did on Saturday (Saracens drew 15-15 at Ospreys),” McCall told the club website.
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“It’s important we give ourselves a shot by winning next weekend, and then whatever happens in other groups happens.”
Saracens will be without number eight Billy Vunipola for the crunch clash at home to Saints after he fractured his arm at Ospreys.
The England international had only just returned from four-and-a-half months out with a knee injury, but is now back on the sidelines.
Sarries also lost Michael Rhodes and Jackson Wray to hamstring injuries on their trip to the Liberty Stadium, something which McCall admits was far from ideal.
“We had quite a lot to contend with and our starting back row was gone by half time,” he added.
“It was a lot for us to have to deal with, but ultimately it came down to how we scrummed on Saturday and it just wasn’t good enough.”
Saracens have already played Saints twice this season, in league and European rugby, winning both games comfortably.
The north Londoners waltzed to a 55-24 victory over Northampton at Twickenham on the opening day of this year’s Aviva Premiership, while they won 57-13 at Franklin’s Gardens in the Champions Cup in October.
Another big success this weekend would give Saracens the best chance of progressing to the knockout stages in European rugby.