Monday 24 November 2014

Tigers' hopes very much alive in pool of death

Published 13/01/2013 | 05:00

Anthony Allen: 'We have a huge opportunity to make the last eight, but we will have to be at our best'

Leicester in buoyant mood ahead of two season-defining ties, says Andrew Baldock

Leicester centre Anthony Allen acknowledges that only the best will do for Tigers as they target a place in this season's Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Allen and company are in control of their own destiny, leading Pool 2 by a point.

But the run-in could hardly be tougher, with Welsh challengers the Ospreys awaiting them today followed by next weekend's Welford Road clash against four-time European champions Toulouse.

"We have a huge opportunity to make the last eight, but we will have to be at our best to make the most of it," England international Allen said.

"We are in good shape at the moment, but we know we have two very difficult games left against two very good teams. Getting out of our pool will be massive for us.

"We've missed out in two of the last three seasons and, when the pool draw was made, it was obvious we were in one of the 'Pools of Death'.

"It was bitterly disappointing to lose in Toulouse, especially after holding them in the first half-hour, and Treviso gave us two very hard games. Getting five points against the Ospreys at Welford Road was a huge bonus for us, but we are under no illusions as to how hard it is going to be for us at the Liberty Stadium.

"This weekend's game and the final match with Toulouse have been in the back of our minds for the past few weeks, and there is a real air of excitement around the players at the moment."

England quartet Manu Tuilagi, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole and Geoff Parling all return for Leicester, while out-half Toby Flood also starts after he was cleared at a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing earlier this week following his citing for a dangerous tackle in last Friday's Aviva Premiership win at Worcester.

Tigers rugby director Richard Cockerill added: "We need at least a point out of this game, but we are going there to win. That is non-negotiable.

"If we can win both of these games, that will put us on 22 points and we will top the group. Hopefully, that will also give us a home quarter-final.

"If we get five points out of these two games, we will be on 19 points and would probably be looking at an away quarter-final. It is all in our own hands, and that is important."

An Ospreys victory could see them retain a chance of topping the group, but there is no margin for error at the Liberty Stadium this weekend.

"This is as big as it comes," said Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy, who has seen centre Ashley Beck join an injury list that already featured his fellow Wales internationals Alun-Wyn Jones, Ian Evans and Aaron Jarvis.

"It's a massive game and it is one that we can't afford any slip-ups in. We've got to be absolutely spot-on in everything we do – our preparation, our attitude and our attention to detail – if we are going to get anything from the match.

"We've done well over the past few weeks to put ourselves in contention in the PRO12 and in Europe, but we realise that we will need to go up another level this weekend in terms of performance if we want to get the result we need to stay in the competition.

"It's a tough group with six Heineken Cup titles between Leicester and Toulouse, and we are up against teams whose budgets blow us out of the water.

"But we have got a competitive group of players who will give everything for the cause, who never know when they are beaten, and we are looking forward to this contest."

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