Saracens are looking to pour all the frustrations of the past year into one definitive 80-minute statement in their European quarter-final against Leinster on Saturday. The defending champions are also seeking to reproduce the levels of intensity that edged out the leading Irish province in the final last season.
If Saracens lose in Dublin it will be their last Champions Cup game for two years as a consequence of their relegation to the Championship for breaching the Premiership salary cap. It could also be a last hurrah for soon‑to‑retire senior players such as Brad Barritt and Richard Wigglesworth, and there is a powerful desire to help the pair to extend their careers by at least another week.
“For those two guys it could be their last game and we don’t want that to be the case,” said Alex Goode, set to be named at fly-half in the absence of the suspended Owen Farrell. “They don’t deserve that because they have been so amazing. But it’s not what you deserve in life, it’s what you make of it. You have got to earn it. This is our chance to showcase what it means to be a Saracens player and the answer is everything.”
Goode, who has agreed a season-long move to NEC Green Rockets in Japan, admits the salary cap furore has been tough for individuals to endure at times and suggests some are still angry about the club’s treatment. “Some people would have dealt with it the next day and for some people it might take a couple of months or a couple of years,” he said. “There was going to be some anger, but we dealt with it pretty well. “You can’t allow that anger to sit with you … you have to move forward. Now we are all on the same page. We know what we want to do and how we want to do it. This is our chance.”
It will be far from straightforward, with influential players such as Will Skelton, Liam Williams and George Kruis having left the club. Goode still believes, though, that Saracens can upset a Leinster side that has won its last 25 matches. “We are the last team to beat them and they’re aware of that. We hope it sits in their minds that we have the capability to beat them, which psychologically does something for us.
“It’s about us making sure we have the right mindset [so that] we attack the game and don’t just sit back and let them come at us. We are not going there thinking: ‘We have to hang in there and win.’ We are going in there to say: ‘We have beaten you before and we can beat you again.’”
A maximum of 200 spectators, mostly non-playing Leinster players and the squad’s family and friends, will be permitted to attend the game at the Aviva Stadium.