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Coach Paul Gustard believes it's time Saracens took the 'final step' and added major trophies to club's swelling status
Saracens coach Paul Gustard believes the Men in Black are ready to take "the final step" and add some major trophies to the club’s growing reputation as one of the most dangerous teams in Europe.
Sarries open up their Heineken Cup campaign tonight against Irish side Connacht, hoping to go one stage further in the tournament after losing to reigning champions Toulon in the semi-finals last year.
Boasting a world-class squad, significant financial backing and a first-place finish in the Premiership last season, Gustard believes Saracens are now ready to add the final piece of the jigsaw by winning some silverware.
"Saracens haven’t traditionally been a side that have been sustainable at the top but we've proved that we can be at the top and stay there," Gustard said.
"Now it’s just about taking that final step, kicking on and winning competitions like Leicester do, like Toulouse do, and be a side that’s always there competing in finals."
He continued: "We certainly don’t think our job’s done because we have a great set-up and good players and we enjoy coming to work.
"The players want to win things, of course they do, we as coaches want to win things and the board want to win things.
"But there are a lot of teams in the Premiership and a lot of teams in Europe who are trying to win the same things as we are.
"Only one team can do it and we have to prove over the course of the season we can be that team."
As well as recruiting some high-profile players over the summer such as James Johnston and Billy Vunipola, Saracens have adjusted their attacking style of play to score more tries.
The team have already crossed the line 15 times in their five Premiership victories while scoring more points than any other team in the league.
However Gustard, who is responsible for honing the Men in Black’s defence, insists that to beat the best sides it’s important to be ruthless at both ends of the pitch.
"We’re never going to be the finished article, it’s a continual process, but we’re taking big strides to being that all-round threat to win competitions at all levels," Gustard said.
"You can look across world rugby and there are top teams that manage to get a handle on both attack and defence – the Brumbies, the [Queensland] Reds, the All Blacks who over the years have been a very strong defensive side that are also lethal on the counter attack.
"There are sides out there that can do both and it’s up to us to achieve that. We know this club is built on strong foundations of a very good set-piece, a very strong kicking game and an unbelievable defensive set-up.
"So we’re not going to throw all that out the window just because we want to score more tries."
Connacht have lost their last four games in the Pro12 and five out of their six matches overall against English teams.
The Irish club did however win three times in last year’s Heineken Cup, including a surprise victory over Biarritz, and Gustard insists Connacht are dangerous opponents particularly at home.
"They are an unbelievably good side - Pat Lam has come in and the group are playing a very frank brand of rugby and they have a lot of talent," Gustard said.
"There will be an unbelievably passionate sell-out home crowd in Galway, they have a new team and a lot of belief in the way they're playing.
"Connacht are a very, very good side with good players, home-town boys for whom it makes a lot of sense to be playing for Connacht.
"Playing at home against one of England’s top sides will be a great moment for them and it’s a great moment for us to play a side of their calibre and to start our Heineken Cup campaign."
The match, which kicks off at 8pm at The Sportsground, will be televised at Allianz Park on a big screen in the 100 Club, situated on the first floor in the East Stand.
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