Saracens boss Mark McCall exchanged words of praise with RC Toulon head coach Franck Azéma ahead of their Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening.

Saracens were beaten by Toulon in the Champions Cup final back in 2014, and Sarries' Director of Rugby has plenty of history with Azéma.

He oversaw a triumphant 28-17 win over Azéma's ASM Clermont Auvergne side in the 2017 Champions Cup final.

But the Northern Irishman denied there was any animosity between the pair when pressed on a potential rivalry.

"No. This is not football," said McCall. 

"Our teams are rivals, and we will prepare our players as best we can.

"There is nothing between me and Franck.

"Franck's improved them. You look at Toulon before Franck and look at them since Franck, and they are a better team."

McCall also spoke highly of his own team, who are just one match away from their first-ever Challenge Cup final after their comfortable 44-15 victory away at Gloucester in the quarter-finals.

"They have been superb for the club, bearing in mind we were in the Championship, and the club needed a fresh start," he added.

"Maro was near his best last week. He was energetic and looked good physically. We'll need him at that level on Saturday.

"The level of performance sits highly. It was an important victory in a big game, and it is important we maintain that standard."

Meanwhile, Azéma returned the favour, emphasising Saracens' pedigree in Europe.
He said: "We don't need to introduce Saracens. They are a team used to playing in the Champions Cup and its final stages.

"They have a strong culture around commitment and generosity. They also have a very large squad and a coach who has mastered this type of encounter for a very long time.

"There is a big heart within their club. It will be interesting to see if we can highlight ours as well."

Saracens can expect a raucous crowd at the Stade Mayol, especially after Azéma called on Toulonnais fans to make the most of their home advantage.

"We want to see a 'molten' Mayol. We want the fans to have a lot of fun with us. The atmosphere has changed lately. It is positive," said Azéma.

"We want our supporters, like us, to be crazy, and that happens in these best final stage moments. I hope we don't disappoint them."