Sunday 18 August 2019

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill expects battle against Munster in Limerick

Richard Cockerill is predicting "a huge battle" when European heavyweights Munster and Leicester meet in Limerick on Saturday.

The rivals boast four European titles between them, while Leicester were the first away team to win a European tie at Thomond Park when they triumphed 13-6 in 2007 thanks to tries from Geordan Murphy and Ollie Smith.

This season's contest is all about European Champions Cup Pool One, which Munster currently top after they claimed a bonus point victory over Glasgow in their first game following the death of their head coach Anthony Foley.

Leicester, meanwhile, recovered from a thumping at Glasgow to beat last season's runners-up Racing 92 in their second group fixture, and Tigers rugby director Cockerill knows the importance of this weekend and a return appointment with Munster at Welford Road seven days later.

"There is still a lot of emotion around Munster rugby at the moment because of the tragic passing of Anthony Foley, and that has galvanised them and reignited the old Munster," Cockerill said.

"We expect a huge battle between two great clubs who will really be going at it.

"Their performance against Glasgow was right out of the top drawer. They have got a good side, and they seem to have found some energy and form.

"These two games are critical, and we know that we will probably have to get an away win to get out of this group. It's going to be tough."

After the Munster back-to-back fixtures, Leicester conclude their pool campaign by visiting Racing in Paris and then hosting Glasgow next month, when the race for quarter-final places will be well and truly on.

Cockerill added: "We lost heavily in Glasgow, we got a good win at home against Racing 92, but we know we are probably going to have to get points out of our trips to Limerick and Paris.

"Thomond Park is a special place, just as we feel Welford Road is, but we have a very good record there.

"We were the first (away) side to win there (in Europe), and the only team who have won twice at Thomond Park.

"Both teams have a huge heritage in Europe. The special thing about the Champions Cup is that even in the pool stages you get some big games, and this is going to be a huge, stand-alone occasion."

Munster might also have an eye on Allianz Park this weekend, where victory for Champions Cup holders Saracens would leave them one short of equalling the Irish province's record of 13 successive European wins set between 2005 and 2007.

Saracens have already taken charge of Pool Three, opening up a five-point gap at the top ahead of home and away contests against Aviva Premiership rivals Sale, with their last European defeat being a 13-9 semi-final loss to Clermont Auvergne in April last year.

Saracens have already beaten Sale away from home in the Premiership this season, which underlines the degree of difficulty facing a Sharks side yet to break its points duck in this season's tournament.

Sale skipper Josh Beaumont said: "We've only just played them so we know what they are all about. But they are champions of Europe, so there is no bigger test.

"The next two weeks give us a chance to regain our form away from the Premiership. We just need to cut our silly errors out and then we can get some momentum going into the next set of league fixtures."

Clermont, the only team in this season's competition with a perfect 10 from 10 points return after two games, are also in action on Saturday, visiting Ulster, while Racing host Glasgow and Zebre entertain Toulouse.

Sunday's action is highlighted by a key Pool Two encounter at the Ricoh Arena between Wasps and Connacht, where Wasps' star overseas signing Kurtley Beale could make his debut after recovering from a serious knee injury that has sidelined him since May.

Elsewhere, Toulon host Scarlets, Montpellier take on Castres and Exeter are at home to Bordeaux Begles in Sunday's other games.

PA Media

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