Thursday 27 October 2016

Saracens hope to stage Champions Cup quarter-final at Allianz Park - Mark McCall

Published 16/01/2016 | 20:11

Mark McCall's men are 11 points clear at the summit of Pool One
Mark McCall's men are 11 points clear at the summit of Pool One

Saracens hope to stage their Champions Cup quarter-final at Allianz Park rather than Twickenham after storming into the knockout phase with a 33-17 victory over Ulster.

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Mark McCall's men are 11 points clear at the summit of Pool One with their bonus-point demolition of the Irish province - their fourth maximum five-point haul in five group games - guaranteeing home advantage in the next round.

Tournament rules state that only venues capable of holding a minimum crowd of 15,000 can be used for a quarter-final, meaning Allianz Park would have to be temporarily expanded by 5,000 seats.

"We're relaying on some planning applications to go through and the goodwill of the town council here," director of rugby McCall said.

"Hopefully we will have out first-ever quarter-final in Barnet. It would make a significant difference to us to play here rather than Twickenham, which is probably where we would be.

"It would be wonderful to have 15,000 here for a one-off occasion. Fingers crossed common sense prevails."

Owen Farrell was named man of the match in front of England head coach Eddie Jones, despite an off day from the kicking tee that saw him miss four of his nine shots at goal.

Farrell's vision and athleticism were the source of the 53rd-minute try scored by Duncan Taylor that swept the match beyond Ulster's reach and the 24-year-old is expected to start the RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland at inside centre.

"I thought Owen was brilliant, he was outstanding. When he missed kicks….he just puts it behind him and then gets the next one over," McCall said.

"He usually gets the really important ones over. He had a great game.

"The speculation seems to be that he will play 12 for England at Murrayfield. Clearly he has the skill set to do it if you want that kind of 12 there. He's a brilliant rugby player."

Billy Vunipola, Taylor, Maro Itoje and Schalk Brits helped themselves to tries as Saracens secured a home quarter-final despite having one game left to play, in Toulouse on Saturday.

"Ulster had probably the best defence we've come up against all season. It took everything we had to break them down. To score four tries against them was a big achievement. It was a good win for us," McCall said.

Ulster head coach Les Kiss admitted his team were taught a lesson at Allianz Park and feels Saracens are the greatest threat to Toulon's reign as champions.

"We're extremely disappointed, to tell you the truth. They teach us a lesson each time we play them. There is a ruthless efficiency about them," Kiss said.

"At the beginning of the season I said the one team that will challenge Toulon will be Saracens. Each week my belief in that statement becomes stronger."

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