Heineken Cup: Saracens’ Wigglesworth expecting hostile Ulster crowd
- Credit: Archant
Richard Wigglesworth is expecting a hostile environment at Ravenhill when Saracens travel to Belfast to face off against Ulster in the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup on Saturday.
The teams met at Twickenham last year in the same stage of the competition with Sarries emerging 27-16 victors. If that wasn’t enough to give the match-up an added element of hostility, a spoof of an Ulster video featuring former Irish international Willie John McBride with footage of the Ulster Orchestra performing Stand Up For The Ulster Men appeared, and was subsequently removed, on Saracens’ website last month.
Speaking at Saracens’ training base, Woollams Playing Fields in St Albans, yesterday (Wednesday), the England scrum-half told the Herts Ad that he is expecting a “mental” atmosphere.
“The players definitely had nothing to do with [the video] and we were instrumental in getting it taken down pretty sharpish,” said Wigglesworth.
“We know the atmosphere will be mental. [Director of rugby] Mark McCall and performance director Phil Morrow have both coached at Ulster; they have informed us about how loud it will be.
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“We played at Munster a few years ago and we know the new stadium will be a totally different level [of loud]. It’s not something that will shock us; hopefully it will inspire us as well as them.”
He added: “I don’t think you want to ignore [the crowd]. The best thing about playing away in a hostile atmosphere is taking on the crowd and the team and trying to quieten them down. It makes the win that much more special.”
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Saracens go into Saturday’s game having moved seven points clear at the top of the Aviva Premiership after beating London Wasps and are expected to welcome England fly-half Owen Farrell back into the starting XI. They also boast the Heineken Cup’s top try-scorer in Chris Ashton.
Ulster, on the other hand, could be without influential scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, who has not played since picking up a shoulder injury on March 14.
But, for all the positive talk surrounding Sarries’ week of preparation, Wigglesworth insisted an extremely tough game awaits them at Ravenhill.
“We’re going to have to do a lot things to beat them,” he conceded.
“We’ve watched them and they’re as good a team as we have analysed this year; they’re strong in every area and their kicking game is exceptional.
“We going to have to win the major battles in set pieces and in Pienaar, [Paddy] Jackson and [Jared] Payne, they have top, top players that we will have to keep an eye on.
“But as much as we’re worried about them, we’ll have to impose our game and give them something to worry about.”
Even with a monumental task ahead of them and the “strongest” final eight in the competition, the 30-year-old is confident Sarries can progress to the last four and beyond to lift the Heineken Cup this year,
“Looking at the quarter-final, it’s never been stronger and it would be a brave man to predict all of the games,” said Wigglesworth.
“We’re looking for an away win which won’t be easy, especially against a team that finished top of the rankings and won six from six in a tough pool.
“We know what a [big] job we have on our hands but we’re confident that if we put things together then we can win the game.”
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