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Andy Goode Column: My Heart Says Saracens But My Head Is Telling Me Racing

Racing 92 v RC Toulon - European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter Final

Dan Carter could prove the difference in the European Rugby Champions Cup Final.

Throughout this season we have seen how Saracens have dismantled their opponents with their physicality up front, Racing 92 though will be able to match them.

Saracens will not be able to impose themselves like they do in the Premiership, as Racing have the best defensive record in the competition this season.

Saying that, I think it will be a cagey final, where defences will dominate. Nevertheless, it will will be interesting to see how Racing and Dan Carter try and deal with Sarries’ line speed and renowned wolf pack mentality in defence.

Northampton Saints v Racing 92 - European Rugby Champions Cup

But if Chris Masoe and Ben Tameifuna get over the gain line, they have a real chance of beating Saracens in Lyon. They have also selected two fly halves in their back line, Dan Carter and Johannes Goosen at outside centre, so I expect Racing to mix it up.

Along with scrum half, Maxime Machenaud, they can make use of their kicking game to put pressure on Saracens. Although Goosen has not played too much rugby in the 13 jersey, he was excellent against Leicester in the semi final.

Tactically against Saracens, your kicking both out of hand and off the deck needs to be spot on to win the game, with three kickers on the field, Racing have that ability.

Not only that, but with Juan Imhoff, Joe Rokocoko and Brice Dulin in their back three, Racing can exploit space and carve open the Sarries defence.

Even though Saracens might feel they have an advantage in the second row with Maro Itoje and George Kruis, Luke Charteris has been excellent for Racing this season.

A lot of pressure is on Owen Farrell as a result. Alongside Dan Carter, Owen is the form fly half in Europe at the minute and his performances in the competition have been excellent.

Saracens v Ulster Rugby - European Rugby Champions Cup

Over the last few years his kicking and defence have been superb, but this season he has added another string to his bow, challenging the gain line.

Previously he could be accused of running too laterally, but this year he is attacking the gain line, running from north to south. Saracens have reaped the benefits, scoring some wonderful tries that have come from Farrell’s breaks and offloads. The way he put Duncan Taylor into space against Ulster is testament to that.

Yet coming up against Dan Carter is a massive test. Although I’m sure Farrell will want to impose himself on Carter at some stage, the Racing fly half is the current World Player of the year and steeped in accolades as an All Black.

Although Saracens have spoken about learning from the disappointments of losing previous finals and semi finals, Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers have put together a fantastic team, and they will see this as a golden opportunity.

Toulouse v Castres Olympique - French Top 14 Semi Final

They have got their captain and talisman, Dimitri Szarzewski, back at hooker, and if there one weakness in the Sarries team at the minute, it is in the scrum, where Racing have also selected Eddy Ben Arous and Ben Tameifuna.

A few weeks ago Harlequins took Saracens to pieces at scrum time, so it will be a huge challenge for Mako Vunipola and Petrus du Plessis.

The battle in the back row will be worth watching in itself. Chris Masoe has been turning out some amazing performances for Racing and will be coming up against the world’s form number eight, Billy Vunipola.

Overall I feel the game will come down to small margins and who makes the least amount of errors. But while my heart says Sarries, my head says Racing because of the Dan Carter effect.

Dan has enjoyed an unbelievable season, winning the world Cup and being man of the match in the final, it is no coincidence that Racing are in the Champions Cup final in his first year.

Carter has had a massive impact, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him kick the winning penalty with five minutes to go.

Andy Goode, Pundit Arena


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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.