Saracens & Stringer threat worries Yachvili

Saracens are in pole position in Pool 5 and they will be looking to make it three from three when they complete their “home” fixtures against Biarritz Olympique at Vicarage Road on Sunday in the final match of Round 5 of the 17th Heineken Cup tournament.

Victories over Benetton Treviso and the Ospreys – the latter in front of over 41,000 fans at Wembley Stadium – mean Saracens control their own quarter-final destiny but they will also be well aware of the threat from Biarritz following the French’s clubs 15-10 victory at Stade Aguilera in Round 2.

And Biarritz star Dimitri Yachvili, just three points short of becoming only the fourth player to score 600 Heineken Cup points, warns that it is far from over in the battle for automatic quarter-final qualification as Pool winner.

“Sunday’s match against Saracens will definitely be a decider because it will determine our future in the Heineken Cup this season,” he said.

“It will be a tough game, facing a Saracens team in top form at the moment and very strong in all competitions, and a massive challenge awaits us, that is for sure.

“And we will pay extra care and keep a close eye on Peter Stringer because we know all too well how dangerous he can be.

“He has bounced back by joining Saracens – and he’s always been a very good player – so I don’t quite understand why he is no longer trusted in the Ireland national squad.

“However, in the meantime he will do a lot of good for Saracens and will need to be watched while they also have world-class players at almost all positions.

“We will also be wary of players like Owen Farrell, Steve Borthwick, Jacques Burger and John Smit – among many others – as their team is really heavy duty stuff.”

Biarritz are 3-2 ahead in tournament meetings with Saracens and, with all previous results having gone with home advantage, Biarritz will have to produce a first against them on the road to keep the Pool well and truly on the boil.

“To beat them we will have to score fast, be disciplined, strong in defence and up to the challenge,” said Yachvili, named along with club-mates Imanol Harinordoquy and Fabien Barcella in new French coach Philippe Saint-Andre’s initial RBS 6 Nations squad.

“It is a shame this game is no longer being staged in South Africa as it would have been a first to play a Heineken Cup game there and a very exciting and fun away trip.

“We are having a very tough season in the Top 14 so, above all else, we take one game at a time to try to get further out of the danger zone.

“We do not even contemplate relegation to ProD2 so we will do our utmost to get points however we can to get away from the trapdoor where we are now in 12th position. It’s a very heavy burden we carry being in that position and we are desperate to climb back up.

“That said we still have plenty of room to focus on the Heineken Cup because, as so often happens, that competition allows us to freshen things up both physically and mentally. It also gives us the opportunity to up our game and our standards, so resuming that tournament now is well timed.

“Being selected in the French squad is always a pleasure and an honour and it brings an extra motivation and pride that make me want to fight even more for my club.”

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