Saracens forward Nick Isiekwe has warned that the Gallagher Premiership club will use their failure to win last season’s EPCR Challenge Cup as motivation for their 2022-23 Heineken Champions Cup campaign.
The three-time winners of EPCR’s leading competition could only make it to the semi-finals of last year’s Challenge Cup, losing 25-16 to beaten finalists RC Toulon.
But England international Isiekwe stressed that Sarries’ pain at failing to add another EPCR trophy to their collection would help their hunt for a fourth Heineken Champions Cup.
“All setbacks can be used as fuel,” the lock-cum-flanker said. “There was obviously disappointment. It wasn’t the situation that we wanted to have.
“From that you get a rejuvenated hunger to want to do better and to improve, and you want to make sure that you don’t have those feelings again, because they’re not very pleasant feelings to have. It is definitely a motivating factor.”
Isiekwe knows what it’s like to be part of a winning Saracens line-up in the Heineken Champions Cup, coming on as a replacement when they defeated Leinster Rugby 20-10 in 2019.
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“I have great memories of this competition with Saracens,” he said. “Obviously, being involved in 2019 and watching the boys do it in previous years was incredible, and memories that I will have forever.
“The coaching team and the senior players always reiterate the special nature of this campaign for us.”
The 24-year-old also has high regard for the Heineken Champions Cup and is excited about challenging himself against the top teams from the United Rugby Championship and TOP 14.
“Obviously, there are differences with your own domestic league,” he said. “It’s a collection of the best from each country, so I suppose in in that regard you’re trying to prove yourself against them and on your own level, you want to prove you can do it.”
Saracens start their campaign on Sunday at home to Edinburgh Rugby, who beat them 21-18 last year in their opening EPCR Challenge Cup pool game, and Isiekwe is keen to see how far Sarries have progressed.
“It will be brilliant,” he said. “I think it’ll be another kind of test for us. There will be another chance for us to get better as a team, to see where we’re at and how far we’ve come from that.”