Saracens beat Leinster 20-10 to win the Champions cup last season

Europe’s elite begin their Champions Cup campaigns this weekend.

A lot of attention will be focused on holders Saracens, who were docked 35 points for breaching the Premiership Rugby salary cap, when they face Racing 92 in Paris on Sunday.

Competition organisers are concerned Saracens will be more concerned about overcoming their domestic penalty than performing well in Europe.

“Perhaps other clubs will be happy that they are going to be a bit wounded but it’s not good news for us,” said Vincent Gaillard, director-general of European Professional Club Rugby.

On top of their points deduction, Saracens face an additional fine of more than £5m if any appeal against a penalty for breaching the salary cap is not successful.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has said the club will “expose some younger players to European rugby over the course of the season” to “accelerate their development”.

Gaillard says he “would prefer that they are thoroughly behind the competition”.

“Our concern rests in their capacity to put everything into the European Cup knowing that they will have to fight all the way to avoid relegation,” he added.

European Champions Cup final wins
4: Toulouse, Leinster
3: Saracens, Toulon
2: Leicester, Munster, Wasps
1: Brive, Northampton, Ulster, Bath

After six rounds of games, five pool winners and the three best runners-up will qualify for the knock-out stages.

The final takes place in Marseille on 23 May.

Four-time European champions and Pro14 winners Leinster face Lyon, Northampton and Benetton in Pool One.

Last year’s beaten finalists will be out to avenge that defeat by Saracens as they begin their tournament against Italian side Benetton on Saturday.

Scrum-half Luke McGrath said this week he hopes Leinster, coached by former England boss Stuart Lancaster, can emulate Japan’s performances at the World Cup after witnessing the hosts beat Ireland.

“The Japanese skill levels were incredible and the speed that they were playing at,” said McGrath.