Thursday 22 March 2018

Revenge best served cold for Youngs as Leicester bid to save European dreams

Alex Lowe

B en Youngs has urged Leicester to catch Perpignan cold at a frozen Welford Road today. The Tigers need a victory to keep their Heineken Cup ambitions alive following last weekend's defeat at the Stade Aime Giral.

A maximum temperature of minus one is forecast for the 3.0 kick-off -- and Youngs hopes that will be a shock to the system for the Catalans.

"This game is massive. If we don't win this I don't think we are going to qualify," said England scrumhalf Youngs. "Perpignan took it to us last week and we weren't up to the challenge. We were lucky to get a bonus point, to be honest. At times I didn't think we would get anything.

"It was a tough place to go and we learned a lot. This weekend they will be leaving the Mediterranean and landing in freezing cold Leicester. The French aren't always the greatest at travelling and we need to put a statement down in the first 10 minutes so they know they are in the game."

Perpignan's victory last weekend was built on a powerful scrummaging performance, led by the indomitable French international tighthead prop Nicolas Mas.

But the last time Perpignan visited Welford Road, at the same stage of the competition in 2008, they experienced the full force of the Tigers pack. The temperatures were low that day too -- Perpignan full-back Jacques Burger was jeered for wearing tights -- and Leicester's scrum scored a pushover try from 10 metres out.

The Tigers pack are gunning for a repeat performance after flying home from the south of France last week with their tails between their legs.

"We absolutely killed them at home in that game and scored a pushover try from about 10 metres back," said Youngs. "The guys have been putting some effort in that area this week to make sure it is a solid platform. If we get that right we can really exploit them."

Leicester will start with Martin Castrogiovanni at tighthead with both Dan Cole and Julian White on the bench -- and Perpignan are expecting a Tigers backlash.

"I am told they have the best pack in England and going to Welford Road will be different story," said hooker Guilhem Guirado. "We will certainly receive one of their famous hostile welcomes, as we experienced two years ago, so we won't be expecting anything less from their fans.

"We saw last Saturday, and two years ago, that when you allow them possession they are very dangerous. They will be even more dangerous at home because they will want to make amends for their away defeat. We only have one game left at Aime Giral and we will have to give everything we've got to get the maximum number of points we can on the road."

Leicester have been confident all week that the game will not fall victim to the weather. The Welford Road pitch has been covered by a large canopy and kept playable by heaters while crews are in place to clear any ice from around the stadium.

Wasps, tucked in two points behind Pool Six leaders Toulouse, cannot afford any slip-ups against Adams Park visitors Newport Gwent Dragons.

Although Wasps scored three tries to topple the Dragons in Wales six days ago, it was an unconvincing display, but rugby director Tony Hanks has named an unchanged side. England centre Riki Flutey, meanwhile, features on the bench following his recovery from a calf muscle injury that has sidelined him since late October.

"While we expressed some disappointment in our own performance last week, ultimately we got the result we needed," said Hanks.

"We were put under pressure by a very good Dragons team, and we know that at home we are going to have to play better.

"We are pleased to see Riki Flutey back to fitness and in the match-day squad. He has worked hard to come back, and he bolsters our bench for this important fixture."

The Dragons, without a European win this season, have Wales lock Luke Charteris back from injury, but a knee problem sidelines outhalf playmaker Jason Tovey, so Matthew Jones deputises.

Glasgow's game in Toulouse was also set to be played today after the Warriors encountered difficulties travelling for yesterday afternoon's originally scheduled fixture. Snow in Scotland caused travel delays and the team arrived late in France. The match will be refixed.

Sunday Independent

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