Johnny Sexton says that Saracens will be relishing the opportunity to right the wrongs of 2018 when the two sides meet in the final of this year’s Heineken Champions Cup.
Leinster will take on Saracens in the final at Newcastle’s St James’ Park in three weeks with the two sides having met at the quarter-final stage last year.
Leinster prevailed 30-12 at the Aviva Stadium that day to end Saracens’ quest for three-in-a-row and Sexton believes they have been using that hurt to spur themselves on to greater performances.
“Did you see the game yesterday? It was pretty physical,” Sexton told the media in the post-match press conference.
“You know, they are an outstanding side. I heard them reference our game last year as a big turning point for them in terms of they felt they didn’t turn up on the day and they didn’t fire as many punches as they wanted to. They probably felt they didn’t perform as well on the day. That’s what they have said.
“So, you know they will have Billy [Vunipola] who didn’t play last year, he’s back and he’ll be a huge player for them. Already you flip the switch and start thinking about them, I think it’s going to be probably the toughest game I’ve ever played with this group.”
Sexton has played in four European Cup finals and has been on the winning side on each occasion. He helped his team get the better of the Leicester Tigers (2009), the Northampton Saints (2011), Ulster (2012) and Racing 92 (2018).
Is the 2019 version of Saracens the best team he will face in a European Cup final? He thinks they could be.
“I think every final is tough, they’re always tough. You don’t get to a European Cup final being an average team. But yeah, potentially. They’ve had a lot of experience, they’ve lost finals, won finals, so they’ve experienced both sides of the coin and I’m sure they will be relishing it.
“Like I said, I can’t believe the amount of times they’ve referred to our [quarter-final] game and even you hear their coaches all the time talking about it. So it’s a big regret for them and a big learning point and I’m sure they’ll be relishing getting the chance to put things right against us.
“The psychology of that is something we’ll have to sort out and talk about but they’re an exceptional team. We’ll be up against it but it’s a challenge that we’re looking forward to.”