Heineken Cup: Saracens trust Clermont’s travel sickness strikes again

Weekend preview

One way or another, this afternoon’s “big beast” semi-final at Twickenham will mark the demise of something far more substantial than a mere Heineken Cup campaign. For Saracens, the end of the highly successful Steve Borthwick era is nigh: when the freshly-minted European Rugby Champions Cup is launched in the autumn, the former England captain will be doing something else with his time, quite possibly in the coaching field.

The Frenchmen will also have a splash of sentiment in their motivational mix: Vern Cotter, the New Zealander who has played a central role in establishing Clermont as the leading team in Europe, will end his eight-year coaching stint in the Auvergne in the summer and head for Scotland, where he faces the interesting challenge of reasserting the national team’s claim to Test relevance.

Clermont are a shock-and-awe side: hugely powerful up front, tactically astute at half-back and blessed with a back line boasting all the talents. Though Aurélien Rougerie, their long-serving centre, has failed to recover from injury, Wesley Fofana, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Napolioni Nalaga will take some stopping.

Yet Saracens, sufficiently strong in personnel to leave players as effective as Richard Wigglesworth and Chris Wyles on the bench, know Clermont, all but unbeatable at home, are a lot less scary on the road. They have the physicality to match the visitors in the back row, boast an ultra-reliable line-out and man the barricades with a rare passion. If it comes down to goal-kicking, as well it might, the Owen Farrell-Marcelo Bosch axis may just shade it against Morgan Parra and Brock James.

Toulon v Munster

Tomorrow, kick-off: 3.30pm

The reigning champions did for Leinster with something to spare at the quarter-final stage and with Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Giteau resuming their chalk-and-cheese partnership in midfield, we can be sure that life will be just as hard for the latest band of Irishmen to materialise on the Côte d’Azur. But Munster, with Paul O’Connell stoking the fires up front and Conor Murray fanning the flames at scrum-half, are better equipped to make a fight of it off the back foot.

They would fancy their chances a little more had the teak-tough flanker Peter O’Mahony been fit to play, but the South African signing C J Stander is nobody’s pushover and can be expected to dispute possession enthusiastically with the all-star Toulon breakaway unit.

Wilkinson’s relentless goal-kicking alone ensures the French side start as favourites, even though the tie has been shifted along the coast to Marseille. That said, Munster have a glorious history of epic victories in foreign lands.

Amlin Cup

Wasps v Bath

Tomorrow, kick-off: 1pm

It comes to something when fortunes up front depend on a tight-head prop in his first season as a professional, but the Wasps management have not been slow to acknowledge the importance of Cardiff University graduate Jake Cooper-Woolley to their forward effort. The newcomer’s injury problems give Bath an obvious advantage in tomorrow’s Amlin Cup semi-final. Cooper-Woolley was also missing when the West Countrymen visited Adams Park on Premiership business and shunted their hosts’ scrum all over Buckinghamshire in winning by a distance.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor