Racing's Carter out to get Saracens
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 mid-20s.
"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.
© 2016 AFP