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Wigglesworth staying on for more trophy success

Influential Sarries scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth has revealed his devotion to winning persuaded him to turn down big money offers from France.

Wigglesworth, capped 27 times by England but surplus to requirements under Eddie Jones, enters the Aviva Stadium against emotionally charged Munster in Dublin this Saturday as holders Saracens bid to reach back-to-back Champions Cup finals.

It is precisely the kind of experience Wigglesworth felt he would put at risk by moving abroad, with the 33-year-old telling The Rugby Paper: “The opportunity to move to France came up in January, but it wasn’t something I’d chased and it wasn’t about the money.

“A few extra quid might be nice now, but would it have made much difference in 20 years time when I look back? Probably not. I enjoy what goes into winning and Saracens is not a club I ever want to leave.

“It might have been easier to leave had Saracens not been the full package of being a great place to be day-to-day and us being at the sharp end of all competitions. Moving might have been detrimental to my desire to win – I’m already in the right place for that.

“I didn’t want to miss out on my last few years at a place I love. I’ve got another couple of years and feel as good as ever – no different to when I first set out – so, hopefully, I can continue to contribute in a positive way and win more trophies.”

To defend the Champions Cup, Saracens must first defeat a revitalised Munster outfit who are fuelled by a fervent desire to honour their late coach, Anthony Foley, with a first European Cup title since Paul O’Connell’s side defeated Toulouse in 2008.

Wigglesworth needs no reminder of the physical and mental examination lying in wait, having been part of a Sale side that succumbed 31-9 to Munster in Limerick in 2006. However, Sarries are still favourites and good value to come out on top with most new betting sites.

He recalled: “Munster needed a four-try win to get through and they had all the energy and enthusiasm that day. They’re a top club with brilliant fans and they’ll have twice the number in Dublin this week, but this is why you play the game at this level.

“You play hard all season to try and give yourself opportunities to win things and when you get to these big semi-finals there’s definitely a different feel during the week. I’ve been in bear-pit atmospheres plenty of times and these are the games to relish.

“We’ll definitely have to talk about dealing with the emotional attachment of this game for Munster. I can’t pretend to know how much it really means to them or what Anthony Foley did for Munster, but he’s a legend and from all reports was the best bloke imaginable.

“It’s a heart-breaking situation for the club but the way they’ve come through it is something you have to admire. The Aviva Stadium will be rocking but I love places where your backs are up against the wall and the atmosphere will really get our guys going.”

As one of Premiership rugby’s most consistent performers, Wigglesworth could be forgiven for feeling miffed about his England exile. Instead, he reflects: “I can’t say Eddie Jones has made a mistake because he’s only lost one game since taking charge.

“I’m a hugely proud Englishman who loved every second of what was probably too brief an England career for me to be happy with, but as long as I can look in the mirror and say I’ve done everything I can to play well, at some point you just have to accept it.

“Selection is one man’s opinion and I spent too many years in my twenties worrying what others were doing. I only need to impress the Sarries’ coaches now but if Eddie wants me, I’m still keen!”

Becoming a double ‘double’ winner would help. He added: “It’s a massive ask to do what Leicester did in 2001 and 2002, but because of our injuries we’ve got more guys going into the end of the season fresher than they were last year.

“We might end up with both trophies or could get nothing, but we’re hungry to do something special.”

NEALE HARVEY

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