Thomond Park roar astounds Sarries’ Saull

Saracens flanker Andy Saull says the Thomond Park crowd was the loudest he has ever played in front of and has admitted the noise from the stands disrupted the visitors’ game plan.

Munster beat the former English champions 15-9 at a packed Thomond on Saturday to keep their Heineken Cup hopes alive.

All the points came from the boots of Ronan O’Gara and Owen Farrell, and Saull admits Saracens’ back division could not hear each other speak over the din of the 26,500-strong crowd. Yet that is unlikely to be a problem in the return game at Vicarage Road this weekend, where Saracens struggle to draw large crowds — with just 11,047 attending their Heineken Cup quarter-final with Clermont Auvergne last season.

But it is a tribute to the Thomond roar that Saracens’ players admitted it affected them on Saturday.

“Man, is it loud out there,” said Saull. “You try and call moves in the backline and you can’t hear the guy next to you.

“As soon as anything goes Munster’s way, the whole place erupts. It’s definitely the loudest crowd I’ve played in front of. I wouldn’t say they are intimidating but I would say you can’t hear things and that knocks you off your stride a little bit. It was incredible, incredible fun to be out there.”

And Ernst Joubert has promised Munster that Saracens will be a far improved side when they meet again in Watford.

Farrell’s late kick ensured Sarries claimed a potentially priceless losing bonus point, and they are still favourites to win the pool as they are level on points with Munster after three rounds.

And this Sunday’s clash at Vicarage Road will be vital to both side’s hopes of progressing to the last eight, with South African No.8 Joubert insisting Saracens can only get better.

“It was a tough game,” he said. “We didn’t play to the best of our ability but we were still in the game the whole time. A couple of silly errors that we made maybe cost us the game.

“But we are lucky that we can play them again next week and hopefully we can be a better outfit.”

Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick is also relishing the opportunity of a rematch on Sunday.

“I think this (back-to-back game) is part of the nature of the competition, it is a rare thing in rugby that you get to play back-to-back games, this is virtually the only time you do get the opportunity so it does increase pressure. It is about 2 x 80 minutes, 160 minutes of rugby, and we need to make sure in this second 80 that we were better than we were in the first 80.

“Those bonus points are very important and I think Munster, for example, are a team that have (traditionally) always got something out of games away from home. I was very proud of the way the team in general stuck at it and kept believing right until the very end to get the bonus point. It could prove to be very important; of course, how important it proves to be depends on how well we play in the next few games.”

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