Thursday 22 August 2019

Jamie George feels Saracens must 'take it up another level' to topple Leinster

Saracens' Jamie George during the press conference today. Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith
Saracens' Jamie George during the press conference today. Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Andrew Baldock

Jamie George accepts that Saracens will need to "take it up another level" when they bid to become the most successful English club in European Cup history on Saturday.

Victory over holders Leinster at St James' Park in Newcastle would see Saracens regain the Heineken Champions Cup.

Winners in 2016 and 2017, they would also move clear of Leicester and Wasps and become outright holders as England's most prolific team on the major European stage.

Leinster, though, were the last team to beat Saracens in Europe, knocking them out at the quarter-final stage 13 months ago.

And the Irish heavyweights are also chasing a record fifth European title, beating the mark they jointly hold with Toulouse.

"We have built pretty good momentum over the last year and last couple of years," Saracens and England hooker George said.

"We learnt a huge amount from our loss against Leinster last year.

"The team is in great condition, and we put in a couple of good performances in the quarter-final and semi-final.

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"But we are fully aware we need to take it up another level if we want to beat Leinster tomorrow. It is a challenge this team is more than ready for."

And Saracens skipper Brad Barritt added: "You don't really need any extra motivation. We've always said this is the pinnacle of European rugby.

"To achieve a final this year is very satisfying, but we know there is a huge game to be played.

"We try to keep things quite simple, whatever the occasion.

"Our preparation this week has been spot-on, but nothing different or over the top to what we normally do."

England prop Mako Vunipola will take his place in Saracens' starting line-up against Leinster.

He had been troubled by an ankle injury, but he starts in a pack that sees lock Maro Itoje featuring at blindside flanker and Will Skelton partnering George Kruis in the second-row.

Flanker Michael Rhodes misses out because of a back problem, but wing Sean Maitland returns after missing the semi-final victory over Munster last month.

On Rhodes, Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said: "He has struggled for the last 10 days. We gave him until Thursday, but he hasn't recovered, unfortunately. We had been preparing all week for him not to be ready."

Newcastle United's home ground is set to greet more than 50,000 fans for European club rugby's showpiece occasion.

And George added: "It is obviously a massively-impressive stadium, and being a football fan myself, it is pretty cool to be up here.

"It is hugely exciting - it is going to be a great occasion. I wouldn't say it is just another stadium. We are aware of the history behind it and how special it is to be playing a European final here.

"It means a lot to us, but I think we try to keep the outside things away as much as we can, and just focus on ourselves and how good we need to be tomorrow."

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