Thursday 22 February 2018

Cotter remains hopeful that Montpellier can make last eight

It would take a monumental effort for it to happen but while it is still possible, Vern Cotter is not giving up hope that his Montpellier side can snatch a quarter-final place. (stock picture)
It would take a monumental effort for it to happen but while it is still possible, Vern Cotter is not giving up hope that his Montpellier side can snatch a quarter-final place. (stock picture)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It would take a monumental effort for it to happen but while it is still possible, Vern Cotter is not giving up hope that his Montpellier side can snatch a quarter-final place.

However, their preparations could not have been any worse as they were thumped in Exeter before Leinster hammered Glasgow at home.

Montpellier pose plenty of threats though and Leinster won't need to be reminded of that after they were beaten in France last season.

Quality

The Top 14 outfit are littered with quality across the board and with Ruan Pienaar likely to be back in the mix for tomorrow's clash, the former Ulster scrum-half's inclusion would make them an even greater threat.

To concede 41 points to a rampant Exeter side will have led to a lot of soul-searching in the Montpellier camp this week but they must pick themselves up quickly as a bonus-point win would give them hope of making it to the knockout stages.

"If we score four tries, we can finish with 18 points," Cotter said.

"With 18 points, if Exeter don't win in Glasgow, we can finish second best.

"Then we could be one of the best three runners-up. But the most important is to end up a good performance at home in front of our supporters. We must do that."

Montpellier will need major improvements if they are to have any hope of stopping a Leinster side who increasingly look like the real deal.

When the sides met earlier in round one of the tournament at the RDS, Leinster struggled to put the visitors away and almost paid the price.

Travelling to France is never an easy task and given that Leinster failed to win there in their three visits last season, they will be looking to make another statement, despite already having qualified for the quarter-finals.

Cotter, however, knows that a performance like his players produced at Sandy Park last weekend will yield a similar disappointing result.

"We have experienced difficulties in attack, in control and the ability to keep the ball," the former Scotland boss conceded.

"We knew from the beginning that these European games, especially against opponents like Exeter or Leinster, would give us some learnings after 80 minutes.

"(Last week's result) shows us that there is still a lot of work to do. We'll try to work as best as possible.

"This week, Exeter are away and we are playing at home, with even the opportunity to qualify for the quarter-finals. So we're going to quickly move on and focus on the next game.

"The score was heavy at the end. We didn't get our defensive system working.

"That was the difference between the two teams. We had opportunities to score but we didn't take them.

"In the second half, they (Exeter) created space well, and whenever they enter our 22, they left with points. The difference was intensified in efficiency, especially in decisive areas."

Montpellier are currently flying high at the summit of the Top 14 table, yet they haven't been able to carry their domestic form into Europe.

Beaten

They have only lost five times in their 15 league games, yet have been beaten in three of their five Champions Cup clashes.

They have one last chance to make a statement but they could hardly have chosen worse opposition to do it against than the favourites to lift the trophy.

"We had all of our weapons (last week), but we must learn from these kind of defeats," Cotter added.

"They are the best English team, who won the Premiership last year.

"Unlike Exeter or Leinster, there are times where we play together, where we are disconnected, where we get out of our systems.

"And last week, we are punished. It is the gap between us and them.

"It hurts, we don't like it, but the team is early in its history."

Irish Independent

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