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9 must-know facts before Racing welcome defending champions Saracens to Paris

(Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

Big-spending Racing 92 are ready to play host to Saracens, the defending Champions Cup champions, this Saturday in Paris. It’s a fixture that few predicted would occur as the expectation before last weekend’s quarter-finals was that No1 ranked Leinster would defeat Saracens in Dublin just hours before Clermont were tipped to eliminate Racing. 

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However, both away sides came through to set-up what will be the third Racing versus Saracens clash in the 2019/20 campaign after the clubs met each other twice last winter in the pool stages.        

Now they go head-to-head again in a mouthwatering Anglo-French encounter. Here are nine match facts to note before Saturday’s 1pm kick-off (UK time). 

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What do Owen Farrell’s teammates at Saracens think of his tackling style?

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What do Owen Farrell’s teammates at Saracens think of his tackling style?

1. Saracens have won six of their eight meetings with Racing 92 in the Heineken Champions Cup (L2), including victories in both knockout clashes during that sequence (2015 quarter-final, 2016 final). However, Racing were victorious at Paris La Defense Arena in round one this season.

2. Racing have reached the semi-finals for the third time, qualifying for the final on both previous occasions. Saracens have reached this stage on seven occasions (W4, L3), winning their last three semi-finals in a row.

3. Racing have won ten of their last eleven home games in the Heineken Champions Cup (L1), including seven of eight since moving to La Defense Arena, although their solitary defeat came in their only knockout game during that run (2019 quarter-final v Toulouse).

4. Saracens have won 14 of their 16 Heineken Champions Cup matches since the beginning of 2018/19 (L2), although one of their two defeats was that 30-10 loss to Racing in round one.

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5. Saracens have won ten of their last eleven knockout fixtures in the Heineken Champions Cup (L1), including their last four in a row, with their only defeat in that spell against Leinster in the 2018 quarter-final.

6.
Racing have made 88 clean breaks this season, more than any other side and their highest total in this category was against Saracens in round one (20).

7. Racing have received six yellow cards to date, and no side has been shown more (level with Gloucester), while Saracens have had the most red cards this season (2).

8. Maro Itoje, who held talks with Racing about a move, made 19 tackles in the quarter-final victory over Leinster, the most of any player last weekend, while his teammates Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor made the joint-most tackles of any back (16 each).

9. Virimi Vakatawa (Racing 92) has beaten 42 defenders, 13 more than any other player and over four times as many as any Saracens player (Elliot Daly – 10).

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Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

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