By Sportsbeat

Mark McCall is relishing a return to Europe’s top table as his Saracens side get set for their Heineken Champions Cup opener against Edinburgh.

Director of rugby McCall has steered Saracens to European titles in 2016, 2017 and 2019 and hopes Sunday will be the first step on their road to Aviva Stadium, which is the destination for this season's final.  

There is an extra incentive for the Men in Black in Round 1, with Edinburgh having triumphed 21-18 at StoneX Stadium in December 2021 in the opening fixture of last year's Challenge Cup.

And with that in mind, McCall is expecting another fierce contest this time round.

“Edinburgh are a very good side with a lot of good players and Scotland internationals. They are well coached by Mike Blair and we’ve seen them make big progress so we’re in for a tough game,” McCall told the Saracens website.

“This is our first pool match for 35 months which was a couple of days after our relegation so we’re very grateful to be back.

“It’s a new competition for us, we haven’t played in this format so we’re looking forward to getting stuck in to it.

“It’s a magnificent competition. We have watched with envy but it’s a new journey for us with a different team and it’s very exciting.”

Saracens’ last Heineken Champions Cup fixture campaign ended at the semi-final stage, a 19-15 defeat to French outfit Racing 92 in September 2020.

The competition has undergone a bit of a shake-up since then, with three South African club sides entering the fold.

But McCall’s charges cannot play one of those three until the knockout stages, with Edinburgh and Lyon, last year’s Challenge Cup winners, their only pool stage opponents.

“The addition of the South African teams will add a new dimension to the Champions Cup this season, and it is another reason for fans to look forward to the start of the competition,” McCall added.

“All of the teams are very strong and I’m sure they’ll drive the quality of the competition. If you look across the fixtures this weekend they are mouth-watering and whoever wins this competition is going to have to be a very good side.

“This tournament is very unforgiving, especially with this format, you have to get up and running from the get go, there’s no time to waste.”