Owen Farrell will have a target on his back when he captains Saracens at Ealing in tomorrow’s Championship Final.
A fortnight before joining up with the British and Irish Lions the England captain is one of five tourists charged with getting Sarries back into the Premiership.
Ealing don’t need to be told that they are up against it, despite having beaten their London rivals twice ahead of the Championship season finally getting underway.
They believe to stand any chance of springing what would be a colossal upset in the two-leg final it is essential to somehow cage Farrell.
“Owen is one of the best players in the world, incredibly important to what they do,” said Ealing boss Ben Ward.
“He’s an incredible leader for them with an incredible brain, so we need to close down his thinking time."
Ward added: “One of the things Saracens are able to do so well is execute in the moment at speed. They close your thinking space down so quickly.
“We've seen this season how good Owen is at controlling everything that goes on. So we know we have to be perfect. We are up against, in my opinion, a European top-four team.”
Ward and his players have experienced Farrell at close quarters, both in their league meeting which Saracens won 48-20 in April and, before that, when Eddie Jones asked Ealing to train against England at their Pennyhill Park base.
“Throughout the session I was struck by Owen’s commentary, he was almost like a coach, commentating on what was going on.
“At the end it wasn’t the coaches staying out to coach the players it was Owen. He was there one-on-one with players, going through the plays, how he wants them to run, the little things he looks out for.”
Ealing topped the table in the regular season, winning nine of their 10 matches and scoring 505 points. Mugs they are not.
“They are ready to go to the Premiership now,” insists Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall. “Ben Ward has done an unbelievable job there.
“They are they sort of team you don't want to let in your 22, a little bit like Exeter in lots of ways, because when they get there they can do real damage. We are in for a stern challenge.”
Sarries head across London fully loaded, with Farrell joined by fellow South Africa-bound Lions Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Elliot Daly and Mako Vunipola.
"There’s probably not a huge amount to lose for us," said Ward, who has chosen to play at home first. “So we’re looking forward to going out and ripping into it.”
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