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Alex Goode is dwelling on the upside to Owen Farrell's ban

By PA
(Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Alex Goode insists he can step in for Owen Farrell at fly-half and lead “underdogs” Saracens to Champions Cup victory at Leinster. Full-back Goode would relish taking the backline reins for Saturday’s European quarter-final showdown, where his side will put their Champions Cup title on the line in Dublin.

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England and British and Irish Lions talisman Farrell will miss the Aviva Stadium clash after his high-tackle suspension, leaving Goode and Manu Vunipola the main options at fly-half.

Goode deputised at 10 in style in two European clashes against Glasgow last term and has no qualms about reprising that role against favourites Leinster. “Owen’s would be pretty hard shoes to fill, but Manu’s been fantastic this year, he’s stepped up brilliantly,” said Goode.

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The Rugby Pod reacts to the red card tackle that has ruled Owen Farrell out of next Saturday’s European quarter-final in Dublin

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The Rugby Pod reacts to the red card tackle that has ruled Owen Farrell out of next Saturday’s European quarter-final in Dublin

“If it were me I would just try and play it in my own way really, just try and control the team and lead them around the place. But you can’t compare anyone to Owen, he’s a special player. But the next person, whether me or Manu, will put our best foot forward, and go on and have a good game.

“I haven’t really read into how much the situation with Owen’s been talked about if I’m honest, maybe that’s just a bit naive! But from my perspective, there’s been games where he’s not played, the deciding pool game against Glasgow last season, the quarter-final against Glasgow last season.

“And there have been games in the Premiership this year where Manu’s been unbelievable as well. So it’s not something that hasn’t happened before. The team has a lot of top players who can fill that void, or help out in certain roles.

“We have a big leadership group from the likes of Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Billy and Mako Vunipola, Brad Barritt, Elliot Daly, myself. So there’s a lot of people who can take on that sort of load.

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“So, look, it’s a team that isn’t built around one person. Owen’s unbelievable as a player and a leader, we know that, but we’re going into that knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to play for a week or so and we’ve prepared accordingly.

“A lot has been made about our situation in the last few months, building up to this game. But we’ve known about all that for a long while. It’s a huge game, a huge challenge for us to go over to Ireland as underdogs against the number-one seeds and a lot of people’s favourites.

“And a lot’s been said about us as a force that’s faded, so there’s a lot to prove in that sense, and a lot of top players with a great deal of pride who want to put their best foot forward.

“Certainly it’s going to be a massive encounter and one that we’re relishing, and we can’t wait to get over to Ireland and showcase what we’re about as a club.”

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Saracens’ impending Premiership relegation due to salary cap breaches means a raft of players have left the club since this delayed 2019/20 Champions Cup defence began. Mark McCall’s side must face Leinster without the likes of Liam Williams, Ben Spencer, Will Skelton and George Kruis.

Throw in Farrell’s suspension and the fact Saracens’ enforced relegation has minimised meaningful competition in their 2020 calendar, and the odds stack up against them. And yet the 32-year-old Goode is unfazed amid all the adversity, leaning on Saracens’ stellar record of three European titles in the last four years.

“When you get to the Champions Cup full-stop there’s a special atmosphere around the club, it’s a tournament that we love and take a lot of pride in,” said Goode. “Given our record over the last four, five years, there’s just a buzz around the game full-stop. They are a wonderful side obviously and we have a lot of respect for them.

“They are a top team, but it’s a special group here, still. And we want to make sure we turn up and put our best foot forward.

“We know it’s a huge challenge, and we’re very aware of that. But we’ve always prided ourselves at this club on the next person to step into the club to make sure he wears it with pride and does a job like a Saracen. And that’s what we expect at the weekend.”

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Shaylen 1 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 7 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?

114 Go to comments
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