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Page last updated at 05:58 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 06:58 UK

Hill primed for Munster mission

HEINEKEN CUP SEMI-FINAL
Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry Date: Sunday, 27 April Kick-off: 1500 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website

Saracens flanker Richard Hill
Hill won 71 caps for England and went on three Lions tours

Saracens flanker Richard Hill says Sunday's Heineken Cup semi-final with Munster will be the biggest game of his 15 years at the club.

The World Cup winner, who retires at the end of the season, is aiming to help his side to their first Heineken Cup final and first trophy since 1998.

"There is no doubt that this is the biggest game I have played for Saracens," he told BBC Sport.

"The magnitude is not lost on me, it will be special to play at this level."

Saracens, who have reached the knock-out stages for the first time this year, will be huge underdogs against a Munster side bidding to reach their fourth final.

But Hill believes his side can upset the odds again, just as they did against the highly-fancied Ospreys in the quarter-finals.

"It's a big event for the team and the club," Hill added. "It is a tough team to come up against, Munster have such a formidable presence in this tournament.

"We are respectful of the team we are playing against, the individuals and what they have achieved but we have to concentrate on our performance.

606: DEBATE
RetainTheShed

"That is something we got right in the last round and we need to make sure that in our preparations, both physical and mental, it is the same sort of procedure."

Hill's appearance in the Heineken Cup semi-final marks an incredible comeback from a succession of knee injuries that almost ended his career.

He was sidelined from October 2004 to April 2005 after surgery on his left knee, before rupturing ligaments in the same knee in June 2005 on the Lions tour to New Zealand.

He missed the entire following season and a subsequent infection meant he only returned to action in October 2006.

Hill, 35 next month, announced his decision to retire earlier this season and despite facing the prospect of playing for Saracens for the final time on Sunday, the blind-side refuses to get sentimental.

"I don't believe it will be emotional," he added. "It is certainly not the aim for it to be my last game of the season.

It's fitting that in his final year, Hilly has made a semi-final in Europe

Saracens rugby director Alan Gaffney

"It is business as normal and hopefully my preparations will not be any different from what I have done throughout the whole of my career."

The injuries have left Hill with a permanent limp and Saracens have been keen to protect one of the key players from any further damage.

He has been rested since producing a man-of-the-match display in the victory over Ospreys three weeks ago and Saracens hope his presence on Sunday will guide them to victory at the Ricoh Arena.

"Richard Hill is very important to what we are doing," Sarries rugby director Alan Gaffney told BBC Sport. "We were never going to risk playing him against Gloucester or Wasps, despite the fact we were really serious about winning those games.

"We knew we couldn't afford to take that risk and we wouldn't get Hilly through three games in a row at this time. We have to treat him with kid gloves.

"We just can't pound that knee at the moment. We have just got to look after it.

"We know he will go out there at the weekend and give it his all. It's fitting that in his final year, Hilly has made a semi-final in Europe and we only hope that we can go one step further for him so he can finish his career in style."




see also
Hill set for final fling
25 Apr 08 |  English
Gaffney wary of Munster forwards
24 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Saracens 29-40 Wasps
20 Apr 08 |  English
Munster 9-8 Ospreys
19 Apr 08 |  Munster
Ricoh will host Saracens-Munster
07 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Munster deserve plaudits - Ryan
07 Apr 08 |  Gloucester
Gaffney happy to silence critics
06 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Farrell facing three months out
06 Apr 08 |  Saracens
Saracens 19-10 Ospreys
06 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Gloucester 3-16 Munster
05 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Hill to retire at end of season
24 Jan 08 |  Saracens
Hill battles back
29 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union


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