England couldn’t deliver back-to-back performances to win the World Cup in Japan last year, but Saracens boss Mark McCall has no doubts his players can confound the critics again in next Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final with Racing 92.

England beat New Zealand in the World Cup semi-finals in Japan but they were heavily beaten by South Africa in the final as they failed to repeat the form that took care of the All Blacks.

Despite missing a host of international stars who were with the club when they lifted the European Cup for a third time in Newcastle in May 2019, Saracens defied the odds to beat Leinster 25-17 in last weekend’s quarter-finals in Dublin. 

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Will rugby clubs in England be able to survive six months without any fans coming in through the turnstiles?

Leinster were the No1 ranked outfit in the last-eight, with Saracens the lowest-rated team. However, that counted for nothing on the day as the reigning champions delivered one of their most memorable performances despite their squad being overhauled in the wake of the financial implications of their Premiership relegation for salary cap breaches. 

McCall, who will discover on Tuesday night if quarter-final man of the match Michael Rhodes is banned for head-butting Robbie Henshaw, is adamant his Saracens have the experience to raise their game again for the challenge posed by Racing in Paris. 

He said: “You look back five or six years and we have a group of players that are accustomed to playing back to back knockout matches. It’s something our players enjoy and we have backed these kinds of things in the past. Racing are a very good team with a massive pack, good set-piece and real danger men with power and pace. We played them twice in the pool stages of the competition and we know each other very well.”

With spectators attending sports venues in England likely to be put on hold for six months due to fears over a second wave of coronavirus infections, Saracens and every other Premiership club now face increased financial problems with no ticket or hospitality revenue in the pipeline. 

McCall also fears for the Rugby Football Union who are predicting a £100million loss if crowds cannot watch international rugby at Twickenham. He said: “There are probably better people to ask than me but it doesn’t take a fool to guess to that if England do not get crowds in the autumn and the Premiership doesn’t get any then it will be a very worrying time at international and club level. 

“It is serious. Everyone needs the fans to get revenue and no one knows exactly when the situation will resolve itself.”

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