David Strettle wary of Saracens’ mental toughness ahead of European Cup final rematch

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David Strettle fears Saracens could have the mental edge over his Clermont team in Sunday’s European Cup final rematch.

The England wing returns to his former club with a side which has rather lost its way in the Top 14 since being crowned French champions in June.

Five defeats in a row and injuries to six of their star names suggests Saracens are, if anything, in even greater strife.

Billy Vunipola is crocked, so too Liam Williams, Schalk Brits, Michael Rhodes, Duncan Taylor and Maro Itoje, who will today learn the severity of his double jaw fracture.

But Strettle’s experience is that English players are better at shutting out the past and focusing on the next task than their Gallic counterparts.

And that spells danger for Clermont, whose Euro fate rests on back-to-back games between Pool 2’s two unbeaten teams on the next two weekends.

“The French are a lot more emotional than the English,” he said. “It’s a lot easier for the English boys to separate the emotion and see it as a job to be done.

“You’ve got to learn from what’s happened, what you have experienced and try and improve every year. That’s what Saracens have done very well.”

Strettle points to how his club has responded to winning the French title.

“We’ve not been good enough,” he said. “There’s been times in games when we’ve taken our foot off the gas and we’ve let teams back in or possibly not respected the opposition enough.

“Whether there’s been a bit of a hangover I don’t know but when you carry the tag of champions of France teams want to beat you that bit more.

“Emotionally it is an extra step up and that has probably caught a few of the boys by surprise.”

Strettle admits he was taken aback by the response to Clermont winning the French title for only the second time.

“When I won the league for the first time with Saracens it was very much an internal sort of joy for the team,” he said.

“You had some diehard Saracens fans but I could have gone round Barnet knocking on doors saying that Saracens had won the league and they’d have been like,’ Oh yeah’.

“In Clermont it is the lifeblood of the city. We got back from the final and there were 60,000 in the main square. Every car had yellow and blue ribbons and stickers. All the kids and grandmas were wearing the shirt.

“It is something I’ll never forget and you suddenly realise the happiness success brings, which is perhaps why teams that win the Top 14 have a bit of a lull the following year.

“It is the emotional effect on the team and on the whole town.”

Cambridge captain Charlie Amesbury scored the try that capped a Light Blues’ Varsity double at Twickenham.

The former Harlequins, Newcastle, Sale and Bristol flyer crossed to seal a 20-10 victory for the men after Cambridge head beaten Oxford 24-0 to win the women’s match.



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