Richard Wigglesworth wary of Munster’s emotion

Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth has told his team-mates to focus on their own game when they travel to Ireland next week - because it is impossible to comprehend how emotional Munster will be.
Richard Wigglesworth wary of Munster’s emotion

The Irish province were rocked by the death of their coach Anthony Foley in October and since then have been a driven force on their run to the Champions Cup semi-final.

A wave of emotion has followed them in every round ahead of their clash with Saracens and it will reach a crescendo at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium next week.

Wigglesworth is well aware of that but, as he reflects on exactly what the Munster players have lived through this season, he admits the inability to understand it means Saracens must only worry about themselves.

“First of all, Munster in Ireland away is a hugely, hugely tough task anyway,” Wigglesworth told 5Live’s Rugby Union Weekly.

“But with the emotion that’s attached to it for that group of players and how well that they’ve used that and kicked on from just a horrendous situation, has been something you can only admire from the outside. So, as much as we say we will deal with it and understand it, then I think unless you have lived and breathed it like they have then I don’t think we will be able to understand it.

“What we’ve got to do is get our side of the game right and our emotion on point as we can be, to make sure that we give ourselves the best chance of dealing with what we know is a very impressive team.”

Saracens’ run to the semi-finals of the Champions Cup has been greatly helped by the performances of Owen Farrell.

The fly-half weighed in with 18 points during their 38-13 quarter-final win over Glasgow Warriors and he was deservedly named man-of-the-match as a result.

It was the latest in a string of impressive performances from Farrell who, despite playing inside-centre for England, has superbly marshalled the Saracens backs from fly-half.

And for Wigglesworth, who has formed a formidable half-back partnership with the 25-year-old, there are shades of former England great Jonny Wilkinson developing in Farrell’s game.

“He is completely focused on becoming the best rugby player he can be,” Wigglesworth said.

“I know it is very cliche to compare him to Jonny [Wilkinson] like everyone is doing, but there are a lot of similarities between them because they are so driven to just be the best and want to improve.

“We are so lucky to have him because that is infectious. If that is not infectious then he just demands it from people. So not only does he want to get better himself, but he demands the team constantly are going to get better.

“He is obviously a huge player for us and for England, and no doubt for the Lions.”

Saracens continued their preparations for their showdown with Munster by defeating Harlequins 40-19 in front of a crowd of 71,234 at Wembley on Saturday. The win means Saracens have now qualified for the Aviva Premiership semi-finals for a seventh successive season and director of rugby Mark McCall says they are coming along nicely ahead of their clash with Munster.

“It was a hugely pleasing performance because we’re going big game after big game after big game after big game,” said McCall.

“The first seven months are about getting into the strong position we’re in now, progressing in the competitions that we’re interested in. There are lots of things to be excited about now.”

McCall also explained that Mako Vunipola was withdrawn from the game as a precautionary measure. Vunipola lasted only four minutes into the second half before being replaced because of a knee injury, giving British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland a scare ahead of the squad announcement for the tour to New Zealand on April 19. The England prop is a certainty for Lions selection if fit and McCall revealed that he was taken off to avoid any risk ahead of the clash with Munster in Dublin in a fortnight.

“Mako took a little bang to his knee just before half-time and felt a little bit uncomfortable,” McCall said.

“We don’t think it’s anything serious at all, but we just wanted to be sensible with the big game coming up in two weeks’ time.”

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