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Press Notes | Mark McCall (CC - Rd1)

07.12.23
In association with
City Index City Index
Mark Press Cc Rd1

Director of Rugby Mark McCall is expecting something new this weekend, as his side take on the Bulls in Pretoria.

The opening round of the Investec Champions Cup will see Saracens go up against one of the form sides in the URC on Saturday evening and McCall is expecting a challenge for his side, albeit one that they are relishing.

“It’s a little bit different to what we’re used to, but the fact it’s a night-time kick-off is a good thing for us. We’ve been really impressed with what we’ve seen of them, especially in their last few fixtures. They’re strong in all areas, with a big pack of forwards and some really good players. They really have some incredible pace in the backline and with the likes of Will Le Roux in there too, there’s plenty of experience.”

European rugby has given Saracens some of the club’s best moments in recent history, and McCall feels that the challenge of playing in South Africa will bring out the best in his team.

“It feels different and feels special. We’ve had a good relationship with this competition for a very long period of time and games don’t come much tougher than the Bulls away. It’s a challenge, but that normally brings out the best of the group we’ve got.”

Matches against Connacht, Bordeaux and Lyon will follow in what looks like a tough pool draw on paper. McCall was quick to credit the strength of the sides his team will come up against and admitted that it would only be after the group stages, that fans and pundits alike would be able to get a better gauge of the strength of the Gallagher Premiership sides in this year’s competition.

“We’ve got what has turned out to be a really difficult draw. The Bulls are a much better side than they were 12 months ago, and Bordeaux look like they’ve got a pretty special team as well. Then there’s also Connacht and Lyon at home. Connacht have been punching above their weight for a very long time, so they’re tough matches. Time will tell which of the English teams can emerge and fight against the clubs that have more to spend and bigger budgets.”

Tests don’t come much bigger than playing a South African side on South African soil, and McCall believes that the time together in Pretoria will prove to be hugely beneficial for his side in the long run.

“When the big tests come, the club has always become tighter together and looked out for each other. I’m so privileged to be part of this group of people. A week like this is worth its weight in gold for us, as the new players have a chance to really bond with those who have been here a bit longer.”

Performances in the league have been up and down at the start of the season, but McCall feels that there is something special brewing within his squad, ahead of the start of their European campaign.

“They feel like they are in a different spot to where they’ve been the last few weeks. Our performances have been underwhelming to be honest, but we’re going to give it a real go against the Bulls this weekend.”

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14.06.24
In association with
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14.06.24
In association with
City Index City Index

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