Mark McCall has warned Saracens they need to heed the lessons of last year’s Champions Cup disappointment if they are to return to the pinnacle of European rugby.
The reigning Gallagher Premiership champions missed out on a third successive continental title last season when they went out to Leinster in the quarter-finals, having earlier suffered a humbling 46-14 home defeat by Clermont Auvergne.
They launch their latest bid for glory away to Glasgow on Sunday, October 14, with director of rugby McCall admitting they cannot afford to slip up this time around.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) October 3, 2018
Speaking at the English clubs’ launch for the Heineken Champions Cup at St James’ Park, Newcastle, where next May’s final will be played, he said: “Last year in this competition, we got really taught a lesson that there’s no margin for error.
“We lost at home to Clermont and didn’t really put a performance in. Whilst you can get away with that in the Premiership, how long it is, you can’t get away with anything in Europe.
“We know that every game is important – you can’t have any slip-ups, especially at the start of the competition.”
Premiership runners-up Exeter too will be looking for an improvement on last season, when home and away defeats by eventual champions Leinster cost them dearly.
Director or rugby Rob Baxter, whose side kicks off against Munster at Sandy Park on October 13, said: “It was the Irish club which did for us last year really in our pool with our two results against Leinster and that’s the battle.
“We have probably found a way of being pretty consistent in the Premiership, but a consistency in the Premiership can kind of count against you if you don’t change a little bit or you’re not mentally prepared for the shift as you move out of the Premiership block into the European block.
“In the Premiership, you tend to go next Premiership game, next Premiership game… collecting the points is very important.
“We have actually talked the last two or three weeks about focusing towards the Munster game and we have got to hope that that gives us a little bit of reward, because we have decided to make a bit of a shift and start to look forward rather than just focus on one game at a time.”
Last season’s surprise package Newcastle could hardly have a tougher start as they get under way against three-times winners Toulon in France, although director of rugby Dean Richards insists they have nothing to lose after an absence from the competition of 14 years.
He said: “You look at all the other sides here and they’ve probably got 40 players in each group who have got European experience.
“We have got four, so we have got absolutely nothing to lose. We’ll learn from it and we’ll throw everything at it and we’ll take out of it what we can.”