Saracens skipper Barritt excited by Dublin date with Munster

Julian GUYER
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Saracens booked their European Champions Cup place in the last four with a convincing 38-13 quarter-final win at home to Glasgow, at Allianz Park in London, April 2, 2017

Saracens captain Brad Barritt insisted his title-holders would be undaunted by the prospect of a European Champions Cup semi-final away to Irish province Munster.

The London club, who are also the reigning English champions, booked their place in the last four with a convincing 38-13 quarter-final win at home to Glasgow on Sunday.

In front of 15,000 supporters at their Allianz Park ground, Saracens scored four tries, with former England wing Chris Ashton crossing twice.

Barritt and fellow centre Marcelo Bosch grabbed Saracens' other two tries against a Glasgow side making their first appearance in the knockout phase.

Saracens, by contrast, are now through to a fifth successive semi-final.

Dublin's Lansdowne Road, has often proved an unhappy hunting ground for English sides at both club and international level.

Indeed it was only a few weeks ago that several Saracens stars were members of the England side who saw their hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam dashed with a 13-9 defeat by Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, as the ground is now known.

"The pleasing thing is that over these five or six years we have thrived on going to places where we potentially have not won before," Barritt said.

- 'Logical step' -

"It started in our Vicarage Road days when we didn't get much of a crowd and we thrived on going to (Leicester's) Welford Road and (Gloucester's) Kingsholm.

"This is the next logical step -- to go to a national stadium to play an iconic team like Munster," the 30-year-old Saracens stalwart added.

"We will look forward to it. We don't see it as a daunting prospect -- we see it as an exciting opportunity," explained Barritt, capped 26 times by England.

Premiership leaders Wasps lost 32-17 to Leinster at the Aviva on Saturday and Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall, himself a former Ireland international, said it was important his players got used to the prospect of playing before a sell-out and partisan crowd of more than 50,000.

"The players don't realise it yet -- hopefully they will when they get there -- but it's going to be a very special day," McCall said.

"We played Clermont a couple of years ago when there were 30,000 Clermont fans and us. This is going to be double that -- there will be 50,000 Munster fans.

"We all know there's an emotional element to this game and we have to make sure we're able to cope with that," said McCall, with Munster especially fired-up following the shock death of popular coach Anthony Foley on the eve of a Champions Cup pool match in Paris in October.

"One of the benefits for us is that we have players who have been through it all before.

"We have a team that relishes these kinds of occasions."

Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend, who will take charge of Scotland at the end of the season, paid tribute to the way Saracens had overwhelmed his side.

"We're obviously disappointed," said Townsend.

"We put in huge effort to get here and we didn't deliver.

"Saracens did a number of things very well, their physicality when carrying the ball being one of them. The pace they played at was excellent. They were outstanding," the former Scotland playmaker added.

"A French journalist spoke to me at the start of the year and said Saracens are going to win Europe, saying they're unbeatable.

"And when you see them play like that, they're very difficult to beat. They've expanded their game. They got their back three on the ball a lot."

Leinster's reward for seeing off Wasps was a semi-final away to Clermont, who hammered French rivals and three-time former European champions Toulon 29-9 on Sunday.

"We have a big obstacle to clear first against Leinster before dreaming of the title," cautioned Clermont's fly-half Camille Lopez.