MUNSTER full-back Felix Jones has warned of the threat Saracens’ clinical back three pose to their European Champions Cup ambitions.
Sarries full-back Alex Goode and wingers Chris Ashton and David Strettle - all England internationals - are renowned strike runners and finishers.
Munster’s accurate kicking game proved a key element of the province’s impressive win over the Aviva Premiership side in the second round of the Champions Cup back in October. And full-back Jones has stressed the need for Munster to produce an equally effective kick-chase game this weekend.
Jones said it was ‘uncanny’ how often the England internationals scored tries in key fixtures.
“It’s uncanny (how often their back three score). Their three guys show up together the amount of time they’re on the ball and they’re on the side of each other, so yeah they’re seriously dangerous guys. We’re doing our analysis and giving them the respect, but we’re going over there to not allow them to do it.”
One of the challenges Munster’s own back three will face this weekend is the fact the game will be played on Saracens artificial 4G pitch at Allianz Park.
Munster do have the experience of playing Cardiff Blues on a similar surface and have been preparing for this weekend’s game on the 4G rugby pitch at UL.
Jones said: “There’s obvious differences about it (grass pitch and 4G pitch), but certainly our grass cover would be of high importance because letting a ball bounce on that, there’s no give in it you know. It’ll hop up and it can go anywhere.
“I think on top that as well, it being a good surface, you can get through a lot of work, a lot of speed, a lot of load goes through the legs there as well, so there will be a fair bit of work.
“I’ve played on 4G pitches a couple of time. We obviously have one here in UL, I’ve played on the one in Cardiff but not in Allianz Park. I’ve played on the one out in Cardiff a handful of times so it’s something slightly different, but nothing too major.
“In January, you’re used to having a wet muddy ball you know, whereas you’re going to be pretty much guaranteed a clean ball on Saturday and if it’s dry, (the ball) is going to be bone dry. It can be nice, but it works both ways you know. While you are moving a bit quicker, so are they.
“I think kick-chase is just something that you have to put a good bit of work into during the week and start queuing yourself and queuing the guys around you. Obviously the game in Thomond (v Saracens in October) had a huge amount of kicking and a lot of contestable type balls and going up and winning those.
“Sometimes you can go up and win those and be in the perfect position and somebody will get a hand through or ball will be knocked down so you’re relying on the guys around you then to clear up those spillages around those guys.”
Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony will be playing his first competitive fixture on a 4G pitch this weekend.
He said: “It’s a factor we can’t control. We’ve trained on the pitch down below (in UL) a couple of times, but I think it will probably be a little bit quicker. Obviously the weather doesn’t affect it so certainly from a forwards point of view much is going to change.”