Lyon - Dan Carter will seek to add the
European Champions Cup trophy to his silverware when his Racing 92 take on
Saracens in a highly-anticipated final on Saturday.
Carter, the World Player of the Year who
joined Racing after leading New Zealand to a second successive World Cup win in
October, has helped gel a formidable, cosmopolitan outfit in Paris.
After the disappointing signings of
Jonathan Sexton and Jamie Roberts, there were some doubts about Carter, but the
All Black legend quickly dispelled any worries, his calm, confident approach
galvanising a team bristling with intent.
Two World Cups aside, Carter, world rugby's
highest Test points scorer after 112 outings with the All Blacks, has already
won the Super Rugby title with the Crusaders and even the Top 14 trophy when
part of the winning Perpignan team, albeit his game time was limited to five
matches because of injury.
A European Cup accolade would add to his
prestigious list of accomplishments, completing a personal clean sweep of rugby
union's leading international and club titles, but Racing face a stiff task
against Saracens, who have made their second final in three years.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall
insisted his side won't make the "big mistake" of targeting Carter.
"It's a big, big, big mistake to think
you're going to go and get Dan Carter," said McCall. "Dan Carter's
been doing this for a very long time. So we've got to make sure that his
influence in the game isn't huge, isn't unbelievably significant.
"And if we can do that it means our
pack have got on top in the scrum, in the line-out. It means we'll have put a
little bit more pressure on him than he's experienced before.
"But if you run down his channel and
think you're going to shake him up, you're not going to."
McCall has built up a team boasting a
wealth of England internationals who were vital in the Red Roses' Six Nations
Grand Slam victory.
The likes of lock duo Maro Itoje and George
Kruis are the cornerstone of a dynamic pack alongside Billy and Mako Vunipola,
and complemented by playmaker Owen Farrell and full-back Alex Goode, arguably
back to their best form.
"For us this can't be the
finish," said McCall. "Regardless of what happens on the weekend, of
course you want to win it. But if we do, I'm hoping it's the start of something
rather than the end.
"We've got a really brilliant age
profile in our squad, we've got people signed up for the long-term, people who
are unbelievably ambitious and hungry to get better who are in their early and
"So regardless of what happens I
believe we're going to be playing in more of these big matches."
Record European points scorer Ronan O'Gara
is Racing's assistant coach and the ex-Munster playmaker believes Racing have
grown into a side ready to claim European honours.
"One of our big strengths this year is
how united we are. Our values now are a lot better than they were 12 months
ago, and people are putting it in for each other," O'Gara said.
"We've installed a different culture
and identity, because there's no recent history of winning anything at this
club apart from a Pro D2.
"Now I feel there is a grip on the
club which means the club can do something. Previously it wasn't possible
because of the standards, but we have something very good building."
The Grand Stade de Lyon is on course for a
59,000 sell-out attendance on Saturday, with a new name sure on the trophy as
neither side has yet to experience European Cup glory.