Rugby Union

Racing's Dan Carter full of praise for Saracens' Owen Farrell ahead of cup final

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New Zealand superstar Dan Carter is a big fan of Owen Farrell's "competitive nature" as they prepare for a key head-to-head battle in Saturday's European Champions Cup final.

The rival fly-halves and goal-kickers will have major roles to play at the Grand Stade de Lyon in front of an anticipated 59,000 capacity crowd.

World Cup winner Carter has guided Racing 92 into their first European final, while Farrell and Saracens are bidding to make amends for their defeat against Toulon in Cardiff two years ago.

"I really like his competitive nature, the way that he gets stuck in," Carter said, following Racing's final training session on Friday in a rain-lashed Lyon.

"He's not the biggest guy, but he's extremely physical and he works extremely hard to help his team get the win.

"That's what you want from your team-mates is that competitive nature, and he definitely has that.

"He is an outstanding goal-kicker and he has punished the Racing side on a few occasions in the past with his accurate goal-kicking, and I am sure that will be an important part of his game (on Saturday) as well.

"There are plenty of attributes to like about Owen."

Saracens edged out Racing 12-11 in last season's Champions Cup quarter-finals, and it could be just as close this time around.

The last English club to be crowned European champions were Wasps in 2007, while victory this weekend would put Saracens halfway towards a possible domestic and European double, with Aviva Premiership play-off opponents Leicester looming next Saturday.

Carter, though, promises to be the biggest individual hurdle between Saracens and European glory, as he lines up in another showpiece final less than seven months after he guided New Zealand to World Cup success.

"It is obviously the pinnacle of European rugby, and a big part of the reason why I wanted to come here," Carter added. "To reach this stage is a hugely proud moment for me, and more importantly, for this team.

"We haven't won anything yet. We are up against a very good Saracens side. We've done well to get here, but the hard work starts now.

"It has been a pretty special 12-14 months with some of the things I've achieved. I am just lucky to be a part of a couple of pretty special teams. Obviously, the All Blacks and what they've achieved, and to be involved now with Racing.

"It (European competition) has been fantastic. It's something I have admired for a while, since I played here six or seven years ago (with Perpignan).

"I saw the standard of European rugby was a lot higher than the (French) club competition, the Top 14, and once you get to the play-offs, that standard goes up another level."

Former Munster and Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara is part of the Racing coaching staff, and Carter believes the experience of European Cup winners like O'Gara and Racing number eight Chris Masoe is an important factor heading into Saturday's final.

"Obviously It's a very historical moment for the club and it's a huge occasion, and it's good for the other players just to feed off little words or experiences that they (O'Gara and Masoe) have been through at this level in these high-pressure matches," Carter said.

"It's been valuable. They are not the only ones leading the week, but their little insights and words of widsom go a long way.

"It has been hugely beneficial for us to have the guys who have been there and done that before."

O'Gara, meanwhile, believes the half-back partnership that Carter has struck up with current France international number nine Maxime Machenaud has been a driving force for Racing this season.

"They haven't played that much rugby together, but there's a great thing between them," O'Gara said.

"It's an important combination. The two of them are very different, yet very similar. Max likes getting involved and is taking his game to a new level; Dan's composed, but Dan is also capable of doing something unexpected, which is what singles him out.

"We are here to win something. We are not here to enjoy ourselves. We're here to win, and then we can have fun - that is the club's philosophy."

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