Saracens won’t need motivation, says coach

SARACENS face a crucial Heineken Cup clash against Ulster in Belfast tonight, with rugby director Steve Diamond admitting: “We don’t need to motivate the players for this game.”

Pool Four leaders Saracens are three points clear of Ulster, thanks to a stunning victory over French giants Biarritz in their European opener, and success at Ravenhill would strengthen hopes of an automatic quarter-final place.

Ulster though, are ferociously tough opponents to crack on home soil - as previous Heineken Cup victims like Toulouse, Stade Francais, Leicester and Wasps can testify - so Diamond knows exactly what his Saracens’ side can expect.

“This is obviously a very big game for both sides,” he said. “We don’t need to motivate the players for this game, we all know that we’ve got a massive match on our hands.

“Ravenhill is a very tough place to play, but we’ve got to try to look to use the energy of their crowd to our advantage. It’s a game that we are all looking forward to, and we need to go there with the right mentality.”

French star Thomas Castaignede returns to the Saracens line-up following his autumn Test commitments, featuring at outside centre, while Kyran Bracken, Glen Jackson, Dan Scarbrough, Kevin Sorrell, Cobus Visagie, Kevin Yates and Simon Raiwalui are also back in action.

But with injuries to forwards Taine Randell, Iain Fullarton and Nick Lloyd, Saracens have recalled flanker Ben Russell from England sevens duty in South Africa and he lines up in the back-row, with David Seymour dropping to replacement duty.

“As we are selecting from the squad of 36 who have been named for the Heineken Cup group stages, we are unable to call on players like Tom Ryder, Steffon Armitage and Adam Powell, who all did well against Wasps last weekend, as they aren’t registered,” said Saracens head coach Mike Ford.

“But our philosophy has always been to concentrate on the 22 players who will take the field, and not concern ourselves with injuries.

“We firmly believe the team that is travelling to Ulster is good enough to win.”

Guinness Premiership leaders Sale Sharks, despite the considerable presence of Munster and French challengers Castres, hold a four-point advantage at the Pool One summit, a position they can strengthen by winning in Castres tonight.

Sharks have named a 25-man squad, including just seven of the players involved in last Friday’s 24-23 Powergen Cup defeat at Llanelli.

England prop Andrew Sheridan is set to start after recovering from an ankle injury that forced him off against Twickenham opponents Samoa a fortnight ago, while Sheridan’s red rose colleagues Mark Cueto and Charlie Hodgson are also back.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox