Alex Goode unfazed by task of stepping into Owen Farrell’s Saracens shoes
Alex Goode insists he can step in for Owen Farrell at fly-half and lead “underdogs” Saracens to Champions Cup victory at Leinster.
Full-back Goode would relish taking the backline reins for Saturday’s European quarter-final showdown, where his side will put their Champions Cup title on the line in Dublin.
England and British and Irish Lions talisman Farrell will miss the Aviva Stadium clash after his high-tackle suspension, leaving Goode and Manu Vunipola the main options at fly-half.
Goode deputised at 10 in style in two European clashes against Glasgow last term and has no qualms about reprising that role against favourites Leinster.
“Owen’s would be pretty hard shoes to fill, but Manu’s been fantastic this year, he’s stepped up brilliantly,” said Goode.
“If it were me I would just try and play it in my own way really, just try and control the team and lead them around the place.
“But you can’t compare anyone to Owen, he’s a special player. But the next person, whether me or Manu, will put our best foot forward, and go on and have a good game.
“I haven’t really read into how much the situation with Owen’s been talked about if I’m honest, maybe that’s just a bit naive!
“But from my perspective there’s been games where he’s not played, the deciding pool game against Glasgow last season, the quarter-final against Glasgow last season.
“And there have been games in the Premiership this year where Manu’s been unbelievable as well. So it’s not something that hasn’t happened before. The team has a lot of top players who can fill that void, or help out in certain roles.
“We have a big leadership group from the likes of Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Billy and Mako Vunipola, Brad Barritt, Elliot Daly, myself. So there’s a lot of people who can take on that sort of load.
“So, look, it’s a team that isn’t built around one person. Owen’s unbelievable as a player and a leader, we know that, but we’re going into that knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to play for a week or so and we’ve prepared accordingly.
“I think a lot has been made about our situation in the last few months, building up to this game. But we’ve known about all that for a long while. It’s a huge game, a huge challenge for us to go over to Ireland as underdogs against the number-one seeds and a lot of people’s favourites.
“And a lot’s been said about us as a force that’s faded, so there’s a lot to prove in that sense, and a lot of top players with a great deal of pride who want to put their best foot forward.
“Certainly it’s going to be a massive encounter and one that we’re relishing, and we can’t wait to get over to Ireland and showcase what we’re about as a club.”
Saracens’ impending Premiership relegation due to salary cap breaches means a raft of players have left the club since this delayed 2019/20 Champions Cup defence began.
Mark McCall’s side must face Leinster without the likes of Liam Williams, Ben Spencer, Will Skelton and George Kruis.
Throw in Farrell’s suspension and the fact Saracens’ enforced relegation has minimised meaningful competition in their 2020 calendar, and the odds stack up against them.
And yet the 32-year-old Goode is unfazed amid all the adversity, leaning on Saracens’ stellar record of three European titles in the last four years.
“When you get to the Champions Cup full-stop there’s a special atmosphere around the club, it’s a tournament that we love and take a lot of pride in,” said Goode.
“Given our record over the last four, five years, there’s just a buzz around the game full-stop. They are a wonderful side obviously and we have a lot of respect for them.
“They are a top team, but it’s a special group here, still. And we want to make sure we turn up and put our best foot forward.
“We know it’s a huge challenge, and we’re very aware of that. But we’ve always prided ourselves at this club on the next person to step into the club to make sure he wears it with pride and does a job like a Saracen. And that’s what we expect at the weekend.”