SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Saturday is a perfect chance to rattle the French as Saracens take on Racing 92 and Exeter battle against Toulouse
- France are going to be my tip to win the 2023 World Cup in their own backyard
- English rugby needs to get into their psyche again and dent their confidence
- There was a huge amount of intensity involved in Saracens’ quarter-final victory
- Racing have world-class players everywhere so Saracens will need to step up
This is a huge day for English rugby. France are my tip to win the 2023 World Cup in their own backyard and English rugby needs to get into their psyche again and dent their confidence.
An all-English European final would be a nice start. I also feel there is bad blood between Exeter and Saracens following the salary cap controversy that can be resolved on the field of play.
What to look out for this afternoon…
Joel Kpoku of Saracens practising line outs during a Saracens Training Session in St Albans
Racing 92 v Saracens
There was a huge amount of intensity and emotion involved in Sarries’ quarter- final victory in Dublin, but can they raise the intensity again at Racing? Racing have world-class players everywhere so Saracens must reach last Saturday’s fever pitch again. In fact, I think they can step up another level. Having no home crowd advantage will once again fill Saracens with the confidence to win again.
The Finn Russell factor: The Scot is a truly gifted player and his passing, especially off his left hand, is world class. Racing provide him with the freedom to go through his box of tricks. This can make him a nightmare to play against, especially with Virimi Vakatawa, Juan Imhoff and Simon Zebo queuing up to latch on to those passes. Saracens, famed for their swarming wolf pack defence, have to heap the pressure on the fly-half. Racing won’t be anywhere near as dangerous if Russell has a quiet match.
Finn Russell is a truly gifted player and his passing, especially off his left hand, is world class
Exeter v Toulouse
Antoine Dupont is arguably the best scrum-half in the world while Romain Ntamack is extremely talented — it’s a fabulous pairing. The latter, though, has periods when he goes off the boil and the Chiefs must capitalise. Exeter still miss Nic White but young Sam Maunder keeps the pack moving forward. Joe Simmonds is the key — a very impressive fly-half. He can lay down a big marker for the future if he can outplay Ntamack.
How do Exeter contain Cheslin Kolbe?
The South African wing lights up the pitch with his pace, skill and nose for a try. Like Jason Robinson, he will make a clown of any isolated defender in a one-on-one situation. Exeter must deny him space when in possession and a red alert must sound whenever the ball looks like it his heading his way. The best remedy is to own so much of the possession that Kolbe spends his afternoon on defensive duties.
South African winger Cheslin Kolbe lights up the pitch with his pace, skill and nose for a try