Wyles eyes European glory as Saracens start Champions Cup campaign against Toulouse
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Chris Wyles believes Saracens have shown a range of qualities in their perfect start to the Premiership season – and he feels their ability to win in different ways can help them to challenge in the Champions Cup as they start their European campaign.
Sarries have won all four of their league games so far, including last Friday’s 12-6 victory away against Northampton Saints – after four penalty kicks from Owen Farrell – and the defending champions are top of the table.
They now turn their attention to Europe, hosting French side Toulouse in their opening group game at Allianz Park on Saturday before travelling to face Ulster next Friday – and Wyles hopes Saracens’ league form will help them on the continent.
“Confidence is high, I think we’ve had different kinds of results as well,” he told Ham& High Sport. “We scored some good tries against Sale and then had to battle it out away against Northampton. There may not be tons of tries and it might not be altogether exciting, fascinating rugby, but at the end of the day if you want to be in the play-offs and in the hunt for big trophies you need to win those games.
“So, turning to the Toulouse game, hopefully if we need to grind it out we can do that, and if we need to play some flowing rugby then we can do that as well.”
Saracens have reached the final four in the Champions Cup in each of the last three seasons, losing to French opposition each time.
They were defeated by Toulon in the 2013 semi-final and the 2014 final before bowing out against Clermont Auvergne in last season’s semi-finals.
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“It’s a competition that we’ve been pretty successful in but we’ve never quite managed to get ourselves over the final hurdle, so we’re going to put a lot of emphasis on it this season – like we do every year,” said Wyles.
“It’s something we haven’t quite achieved yet and I think everyone is hugely ambitious and motivated to do well in the Champions Cup.
“We’ve got a big squad this season, we’ve got guys with a lot of experience, so we’re really hoping we can get to those heights again – to be in the play-offs and competing for a big trophy - and hopefully take one more step. We’ll have to wait and see what happens but we’re nicely poised to put in some good performances in the Champions Cup.
“We’ve looked into Toulouse in detail. Toby Flood’s playing there now - he’s playing good rugby with them - and they’ve got some big, powerful players. [Thierry] Dusautoir has been the French captain for a while, so we’re very aware that they’ve got classy players, but that’s the great thing about the Champions Cup.
“You want to play against the best opposition and what a great game to sink your teeth into with Toulose at home at Allianz Park.”
Saracens recently announced that they will be involved in the first Premiership game to be played overseas, playing March’s ‘away fixture’ against London Irish on the other side of the Atlantic in New York.
Wyles has welcomed that development, having just captained the USA national team at the Rugby World Cup – along with this week’s announcement that North America’s first ever professional rugby league will be launched in April.
“It’s exciting on both sides of the game for me,” he said. “From a Sarries point of view it’s great to be able to get to New York in what is a long season in England. It mixes it up a little bit, it gives us a bit of a fresh outlook to spend a week in New York.
“Then on the other side of that in the US, with the announcement of the pro league, with sevens returning for the  Olympics and now Premiership games being played in the States, it’s only a good thing and long may that continue. Hopefully it can gain some more interest from the public in the US in rugby.
“We [the USA team] have played against the All Blacks and the Wallabies in Chicago, at Soldier Field, and I think with the Olympics, that could be a really huge, key indicator of how things can move forward.
“Hopefully the sevens team can put in some good performances and gain some interest, and then with this league, there’s a good opportunity.
“It’s a massively saturated sporting market so just because there’s a league and it’s in the Olympics doesn’t mean it’s all done and dusted. But hopefully things can grow and opportunities can be seized because things are starting to happen.”
Wyles went on: “In the US, the Olympics is probably the pinnacle of sport now, and if you come away with a medal you’re instantly a star, and it just provides huge amounts of exposure for the sport.
“A lot of people will end up watching that to support Team USA, not necessarily to support rugby, and the one thing about rugby in the US is that the people who watch it or are exposed to it for the first time, they get hooked on it.
“It’s just about how you get people to watch it and how you get them exposed to it because there are so many big sporting teams.
“The World Cup’s always a good thing. If you compare it to Japan, I’m hearing that the numbers of interest in rugby in Japan is at an all-time high, and it’s no surprise that they won three games [at the World Cup] and had a huge win against South Africa.
“With us, obviously there’s exposure but at the end of the day we’ve got to start winning games and competing on the World Cup stage. That’s what will really make a difference.”