European Champions Cup Saracens aim for new European record against Clermont

The London side are bidding to become just the fourth club to win back-to-back European Cup titles.

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If the Saracens beat Clermont at Murrayfield to take the CHampions Cup they will also set a new record of 18 unbeaten matches in the competition play

If the Saracens beat Clermont at Murrayfield to take the CHampions Cup they will also set a new record of 18 unbeaten matches in the competition

(AFP/File)
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Saracens will aim to rewrite European rugby union's record books when the title-holders face Clermont in the Champions Cup final at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The London side are bidding to become just the fourth club to win back-to-back European Cup titles, after Leicester, Leinster and Toulon.

Victory would also see Saracens set a new outright record of 18 matches unbeaten in the Champions Cup, equalling the record they share with Irish side Leinster of 17, in both cases comprising 16 wins and a draw.

Saracens, also the reigning English champions and eyeing a 'double Double', could field six members of the British and Irish Lions squad -- the largest number supplied by any one club -- for the combined side's upcoming tour of New Zealand.

That England sextet of Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Jamie George and Mako Vunipola are all set to feature against Clermont after Saracens rested most of their stars for last week's Premiership defeat by Wasps, having already booked their place in the title-deciding play-offs.

Saracens boss Mark McCall deployed just one of his Lions in the starting line-up against Wasps in Kruis, with Jamie George the only other to feature as he came off the bench.

'Deadly attack'

England lock Itoje was the man-of-the-match in Saracens' Champions Cup final win over Clermont's French rivals Racing 92 last season.

This will be Clermont's third European Cup final, with the Top 14 side still looking for a first major continental title after twice losing to another French side in Toulon.

"They've been close a few times but not quite done it," Itoje told Saracens' website.

"They're a big, physical team with a strong set-piece and a deadly attack as well."

It will be up to Itoje and his fellow Saracens forwards to secure enough good quality ball so they can unleash backs of the calibre of ex-England wing Chris Ashton, who needs just one more try to take sole possession of the tournament's record of 36 tries that he shares with former France star Vincent Clerc.

Saturday's match will be Ashton's last in European competition with Saracens before he joins Toulon at the end of the season, having remained off the scoresheet in their semi-final win away to Munster.

Saracens will be without Scotland wing Sean Maitland (ankle)and prop Richard Barrington (hand) because of injury. They also have fitness doubts over tighthead prop Vincent Koch.

Losing Koch would be a blow given that, in the absence of the already sidelined Juan Figallo, he will be expected to anchor the scrum against Clermont's powerhouse front row Thomas Domingo.

But in any case, Clermont would do well to keep an eye on unheralded South African Michael Rhodes, a back-row who has also starred at lock this season while Kruis was out injured.

Meanwhile, Clermont received a boost earlier this week when scrum-half Morgan Parra and centre Remi Lamerat were passed fit by coach Franck Azema earlier this week.

Parra, 28, suffered a thigh strain and 27-year-old Lamerat a knee knock in the French club's bruising semi-final win over Irish side Leinster (27-22).

Clermont are battling against their reputation as the 'nearly men' of rugby, with their loyal 'Yellow Army' of fans desperate to celebrate in Edinburgh.

They've won just one of their 12 Top 14 finals (in 2010), as well as suffering those two European reverses against Toulon.

But David Strettle, Clermont's former Saracens wing, told AFP: "It doesn't affect me if Clermont have won or lost eleven, twelve finals.

"I am playing just the one game, in my head it is the same. The players just have to ignore the history.

"For the fans, it's different."