Finn Russell Russell sparkles as Racing outclass crisis-stricken Saracens

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AC/DC’s Highway to Hell was blaring through the roofed stadium, while an elaborate light show, including a circle of stars bearing a similar appearance to the EU flag, was projected on to the pitch. Perhaps, the joke was centred around Brexit, but based on the defending champions’ lacklustre display, it looks as though Mark McCall’s men will endure a hellish journey in the Heineken Champions Cup after their first loss in the competition since the 2018 quarter-final against Leinster.

If they decide not to appeal against their Premiership points deduction, they will field a less-than full-strength side in Europe to focus their wealth of England internationals on domestic top-flight survival.

The only players from England’s run to the World Cup final to start for Saracens were hooker Jack Singleton and scrum-half Ben Spencer. Without the experience of Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Mako and Billy Vunipola, they looked lost.

McCall, the director of rugby, said: “They came at us in waves in the first 20 minutes and we weren’t able to control the speed of their ball. We were up against it the whole game.”

It wasn’t a surprise that Racing dominated. The Parisians’ nine-10 axis of Maxime Machenaud and Finn Russell controlled the game, and their experience smothered Manu Vunipola’s attempts to get a foothold in proceedings. Hooker Camille Chat and flanker Wenceslas Lauret were key in undermining Saracens’ set-piece efforts.



Finn Russell Virimi Vakatawa of Racing 92 offloads in the tackle during the Heineken Champions Cup Round 1 match between Racing 92 and Saracens at Paris La Defense Arena. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images


Virimi Vakatawa of Racing 92 offloads in the tackle during the Heineken Champions Cup Round 1 match between Racing 92 and Saracens at Paris La Defense Arena. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Virimi Vakatawa scored the opening try after he easily cut through the Saracens midfield after 10 minutes.

By the 27th minute, when wing Teddy Thomas ran in at the corner, the Londoners were on the ropes. The players looked nervy and disassociated at times, but could be excused considering the off-field drama. But captain Jack

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