If they claim a hat-trick of European Champions Cups then Saracens will be among the greatest club sides ever but as the campaign starts Scarlets could also prove dangerous
There is a fresh feel to this year’s European Champions Cup as the continent’s gladiators strap on their body armour. First and foremost, the final will be staged in Spain next May, with Bilbao’s San Mamés stadium and Guggenheim museum promising a very different cultural experience. And why not? Endlessly doing the same old things is not the way ahead for an ambitious professional sport.
From the Basque Country to Bath this is also a campaign full of other enticing possibilities. Not so long ago it was widely felt that digging in for the odd losing away bonus point was vital to eventual qualification. Increasingly, more sides are understanding that try bonus points, particularly at home, make an even bigger difference. Saracens, the defending champions, have scored 46 pool tries en route to successive titles; their three tries against Clermont Auvergne in last year’s final compared with Owen Farrell’s seven penalties against Racing in 2016 further underlined their positive intent.