Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall believes Munster are a much tougher prospect than the last time the two sides met thanks to the addition of Graham Rowntree and Stephen Larkham.
The pair have crossed paths a few times in rugby’s most prestigious club competition with their most recent match coming in last season’s semi-final at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry where the Premiership champions ran out 32-16 winners on the day.
This Saturday they will renew their rivalry when the English side, who defeated Leinster in the 2018/2019 final, travel to Thomond Park.
Saracens are currently in the midst of trying to claw back some the 35-point deduction they received for breaching domestic salary caps. As a result, many are unsure as to how much of a priority defending their Champions Cup title will be.
They lost their opening-round game to Racing 92 before bouncing back with a win over Ospreys in round two. We will get more a clearer picture of how Pool 4 is looking when they travel to Limerick this weekend.
According to the Irish Independent, former Irish international McCall, believes Munster will be a much tougher prospect this time around with Rowntree and Larkham in their corner.
“Munster are one of those clubs that always get to the semi-final or final, always get out of their pool, so we know we are playing against one of the European powerhouses,” he said.
“There have been a few changes to their coaching staff this year. Stephen Larkham will obviously make a significant difference.
“Graham Rowntree is there as well so they have brought in some experienced coaches into the organisation. We had a tough semi-final against Munster last year and we know it’s going to be tougher this time round.”
Despite facing a relegation battle domestically as well as a battle for European supremacy once more, many are doubting whether Saracens will be able to focus on both.
With many of their squad involved in England’s recent World Cup final run and the 2020 Six Nations a matter of weeks away, it’s difficult to see how they could prioritise both.
However, according to McCall, they have the squad to cope with such demands.
“We have a lengthy injury list and we need to manage the returning international players, but we have asked a lot of this group and they are resilient,” McCall said.
“We need to think how we use our international players best but we are not giving up on this competition at all. Of course, we are all bothered about it and we have some thinking to do. But I expect us to put out strong teams in this competition all the time.
“This team has been together for a long time. Relationships in the group are strong, relationships among the players and the staff are strong and we all care about it. Of course, we are all bothered by it.”