Friday, 5 April 2013

Same Again for QF Test

Tigers name an unchanged side as they head to the Mediterranean port city of Toulon this Sunday for our 11th Heineken Cup Quarter Final in 16 season.  

Richard Cockerill has kept faith in the side that won narrowly away to Exeter and pulverised Northampton at the Gardens.  Mat Tait, Niall Morris and Adam Thompstone make up the back three with the Awesome Foursome of Youngs-Flood-Allen-Tuilagi making up the midfield.  

Up front Dan Cole keeps out want away prop forward Martin Castrogiovanni, whilst Tom Youngs is fit to play after coming off last weekend in the first half with a shoulder injury.  Argentinian Marcos Ayerza rounds out the trio.  Leicester born Ed Slater teams up with Geoff Parling in the second row while partners in crime Jordan Crane and Tom Croft are joined by Australian Julian Salvi.

For the third week in a row Toby Flood is named as captain in the absence of Louis Deacon and Geordan Murphy, and in a fantastic sub plot to the match not only is he facing mentor Jonny Wilkinson for the first time but St. Jonny also captains his side from fly half.  

Wilkinson is joined by 4 other English players and another 3 ex-Premiership players in the Toulon side.  The English contingent is "glass jaw" prop Andrew Sheridan and former London Irish trio Nick Kennedy plus Delon and Steffon Armitage.  Juan Fernandez Lobbe and Sebastian Bruno, who were part of Sale's Champion team, are joined by former Falcon Carl Hayman.

Toulon have also signed some of the best talent from the Top 14 with Stade Francais' Mathieu Bastareaud, Brive's Alexis Palisson, Castres duo Sebastian Tilous-Borde and Chris Masoe all starting and former Perpignan centre Maxime Mermoz, who was a pivotal figure as the Catalans drew at Welford Road in 2010, only making the bench.  

Also on Toulon's bench is Six Nations Championship winning captain Gethin Jenkins and 52 times capped South African Joe van Niekerk.  In the week Cockerill called Toulon "rockstars", well I'm not sure if they've got Mick Jagger quaking in his boots just yet but it certainly is an almost unprecedented array of Rugby talent to have at your disposal.

But you can only have 15 of them on the pitch, unless you're the Ospreys, and our first XV looks as good as any in Europe and will be full of confidence after smashing Northampton last weekend.

Tigers have a 6-4 winning record in European Quarter Finals and are 3-3 in knock games with French sides.  The two knock games to be played in France are the 1997-8 Quarter Final defeat to Pau, 35-18, and the 2001 Final victory in Paris, 34-30.  The last time we won in France at all was the sodden December trip to Bourgoin in 2006, only 7 years ago and now Marcos Ayerza is the sole survivor in our first team. 

Sunday's referee will be Irishman George Clancy.  Clancy refereed Tigers crucial group stage victory over Toulouse at a snowy Welford Road, as well taking charge of the memorable 41 all draw with Gloucester in April 2011 and a bonus point victory against Llanelli in 2010 again at Welford Road.  Clancy has also refereed Toulon three times including last years emphatic defeat of Harlequins in the Amlin Challenge Cup at the Stade Mayol and this seasons 22-14 victory away to Cardiff.  Showing how Rugby can change quite rapidly the other Toulon game he has taken charge of was a 2008 fixture against Bristol, where the West country side romped to a 39-11 victory.

Tigers certainly go into this game with their backs against the wall but as a great man once said "Nobody puts Tigers in the Corner!"

Leicester Tigers (Toulon, Stade Felix Mayol, Sunday 5.30pm local / 4.30pm UK)
15 Mathew Tait
14 Niall Morris
13 Manu Tuilagi
12 Anthony Allen
11 Adam Thompstone
10 Toby Flood (c)
9 Ben Youngs
1 Marcos Ayerza
2 Tom Youngs
3 Dan Cole
4 Ed Slater
5 Geoff Parling
6 Tom Croft
7 Julian Salvi
8 Jordan Crane

16 Rob Hawkins
17 Logovi'i Mulipola
18 Martin Castrogiovanni
19 Graham Kitchener
20 Thomas Waldrom
21 Sam Harrison
22 George Ford
23 Matt Smith

15 Delon Armitage
14 Rudi Wulf
13 Mathieu Bastareaud
12 Matt Giteau
11 Alexis Palisson
10 Jonny Wilkinson (c)
9 S├ębastien Tillous-Borde
1 Andrew Sheridan
2 Sebastien Bruno
3 Carl Hayman
4 Bakkies Botha
5 Nick Kennedy
6 Juan Fernandez Lobbe
7 Steffon Armitage
8 Chris Masoe Replacements: 
16 Mickael Ivaldi
17 Gethin Jenkins
18 Levan Chilachava
19 Jocelino Suta
20 Vincent Martin
21 Maxime Mermoz
22 Nicolas Durand
23 Joe van Niekerk

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