Powell seeks final surge
PA Sport
April 11, 2008

Saracens centre Adam Powell has urged the Heineken Cup semi-finalists to use their memorable European adventure as a springboard for possible domestic success.

A stunning victory over star-studded Welsh side the Ospreys last weekend proved arguably Saracens' biggest day since they were crowned English knockout cup winners in 1998.

Powell and company now face Munster at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on April 27, with a Heineken Cup final place on offer as the glittering prize.

Saracens though, still hold an outside chance of making the Guinness Premiership play-offs, even if their run-in suggests otherwise.

Saracens face fellow Heineken quarter-finalists Gloucester at Kingsholm tomorrow, then host Wasps and visit Bath either side of the Munster showdown, before winding up their Premiership programme at home to Bristol.

It is a tall order, especially as they have slipped six points behind the top-four pace, but Powell is not about to lose faith.

He said: ''We have set the bar really high now following that performance against the Ospreys, and we have to keep it at that level - if not increase it - for the rest of the season.

''Gloucester have a very proud record at Kingsholm, and now they are out of Europe, all their focus will be on the Premiership.

''From our perspective, we've still got a lot of work to do in the league.

''People have asked me if I think we can still finish in the top four. It's not going to be easy, but I believe we have the ability to do it.

''We have made things difficult for ourselves by slipping up a few times, especially in a couple of home games.

''But there is a belief in the squad, and if we can repeat the levels we set against Leeds (Saracens won 66-7) and the Ospreys, we can still challenge in the league.''

Powell, who has strongly challenged Andy Farrell for inside centre duties at Saracens this season, can now expect an extended run following Farrell's season-ending shoulder injury suffered against the Ospreys.

Wasps, the Premiership's form team after collecting 22 points from their last five games, should reel off a 12th successive home victory in all competitions when Worcester arrive at Adams Park tomorrow.

Wasps, who have two games in hand on five of the six clubs currently above them, will target a bonus point triumph despite Worcester's recent Premiership revival of three wins and a draw from their last four starts.

Bristol boss Richard Hill, meanwhile, has identified Charlie Hodgson as the principal threat to his team stalling Sale Sharks' play-off push tonight.

Sale will arrive at the Memorial Stadium knowing victory would put them third - or possibly higher - with the race for a top-four finish gathering momentum.

And Sharks fly-half Hodgson is the player Hill believes ninth-placed Bristol must stop.

He said: ''If he (Hodgson) doesn't play, they don't win.

''He is a key individual for them who can play two ways. He can either kick you to death, as he did to us earlier in the season, or he can bang out those long passes.''

Hill recalls skipper Matt Salter, while other changes includes starts for hooker Scott Linklater and lock Roy Winters.

Hodgson though, lines up in a Sale side shorn of centre Lee Thomas (illness) and back-row giant Sebastien Chabal (knee).

After Bristol, Sale face Wasps in a rearranged fixture next Tuesday, and Sharks rugby director Philippe Saint-Andre said: ''The next two games could make or break our Premiership season.''

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