Wales lock Luke Charteris has been hailed as one of Racing 92’s “most valuable assets” this season.
The wealthy Parisians’ march to a European Champions Cup final appointment with Saracens in Lyon on Saturday has been highlighted by major contributions from world stars like Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko, and Juan Imhoff.
But Charteris can stand tall - literally, at 6ft 9in - among such illustrious company after underpinning Racing’s solid Champions Cup foundations.
He is the tournament’s top tackler this term with 107, his lineout work has proved to be exemplary, and Charteris now faces an eagerly-awaited clash against Saracens’ revered England second-row pairing of Maro Itoje and George Kruis.
“He has probably been one of our most valuable assets, for sure,” Racing scrum-half and Charteris’ former Wales team-mate Mike Phillips said. “He’s been outstanding all season, and he seems to get better every game. He really has been a massive part of the team.
“When he has not played, we’ve really missed him a lot. He deserves a lot more praise than I think he gets, really, and he has got an opportunity on the weekend to showcase his skills at the top level.
“It (second-row) is a strength of their team as well - those two guys (Itoje and Kruis) have been on fire for England - so that’s going to be a good battle.”
Racing’s route to their first Champions Cup final was highlighted by knockout victories over tournament heavyweights Toulon and Leicester.
But Phillips, who is set to provide bench back-up to France international number nine Maxime Machenaud this weekend, has no doubt that Aviva Premiership leaders and 2014 European runners-up Saracens will pose a major examination for Racing’s glitterati.
“They’ve had a great season so far,” he added. “We played them last year (in the quarter-finals), so we know a little bit about them and we’ve done our homework on them.
“They have got strength throughout the team and players who have featured with England a lot this season. They are a team full of confidence. Our game has developed this season. We are quite a young team, and things have progressed really well, with some big names coming in as well, adding their talent and experience.”
Carter’s post-World Cup arrival has proved arguably the headline act in European rugby this season, and he is now one win away from making another significant addition to a career portfolio of immense proportions.
“It’s been great to have him (Carter) here,” Phillips said.
“Everyone knows his talent - he shows it every time he plays. He is a very down to earth guy who gets on with his work, and he has blended in really well and brought a lot to the team.
“We have a massive game ahead of us. Everyone wants to win silverware, and we have just got to concentrate on ourselves and bring our best game with us on Saturday. We know that Saracens have a superb defence - they have great line-speed and come off the line really well and make their one-on-one tackles, dominate the collisions - and they have a really good kicking game as well.
“We have just to be really accurate. It is about taking your opportunities and being efficient. It didn’t quite happen for us last year, but hopefully, we have learnt from that.”
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