Third time lucky for Tigers?

Tue, 08 Oct 2013 13:44
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Leicester Tigers skipper Toby Flood is hoping to be able to do something that neither Martin Johnson nor Neil Back were able to do before him.

Leicester Tigers skipper Toby Flood is hoping to be able to do something that neither Martin Johnson nor Neil Back were able to do before him and lead his side to victory at Ravenhill in their European Cup opener on Friday.

Flood will lead the Tigers into Belfast hoping to make it third time lucky in Europe after two record beatings by the home side at their biggest European graveyard. As soon as the draw grouped the Tigers with Ulster, Montpellier and Benetton Treviso in Pool Five, everyone at Welford Road began to prepare for a trip to Ravenhill.

Twice the double European champions have travelled to Belfast and both times they have come home with their tails between their legs. Now Flood is planning to turn the tide of history and ensure his side get off to a better start than they managed last year, when they were turned over in Toulouse.

"Games in this tournament don't come much harder than having to face Ulster at Ravenhill on a Friday and we know it is going to be a difficult start. It is as hard a place to go as any in Europe," said Flood.

"But while we know what lies ahead of us, no team can afford to take Leicester Tigers lightly. We have a great pedigree in the European Cup and, even though we haven't won it since 2002, we have been in two more finals since then.

"We've had two very bads at Ravenhill down the years. We lost 41-7 in a Pool match in 2012 and I believe it was even worse back in 2003 when Martin Johnson's side were beaten 33-0. They were battered by all accounts in that first game, but turned it around with a comprehensive 49-7 win six days later back at Welford Road.

"I didn't go to Belfast two seasons ago, but it was very disappointing. They played very well and we were poor. We can't afford for that to happen again."

As much as Flood is aware of the strength of the Johann Muller inspired pack that propelled Ulster into the European Cup final in 2012 and the Pro12 final earlier in the year, he also knows there is plenty of potential behind the scrum.

Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy provide real cutting edge, while Luke Marshall and Jared Payne add further threat. But Flood believes it is the home half-backs that will be the ones to watch.

"Ulster have a strong pack and have great tacticians behind to dictate their game. Ruan Pienaar will be coming into the tournament off the back of another strong performance with South Africa in the Rugby Championships and Paddy Jackson is a player who is simply going to get stronger and stronger over time," said Flood.

"We know all about tough away games because we had to travel to Toulouse first up last season and lost 23-9. We had to come home and make amends for that defeat by beating the Ospreys at Welford Road in Round 2."

Last season the Tigers were drawn in the 'Pool of Death' with Toulouse and the Ospreys, and this season is not much better with 2003 quarter-finalists Montpellier also in the mix. That's why a good start is going to be crucial to Flood's hopes to reach a sixth final.

"We know from their recent results, including massive wins over Toulouse and Clermont and a draw with Toulon, how strong Montpellier are going to be this season and nobody can afford to take Benetton Treviso lightly. We've had some close shaves against them in the past," said Flood

"There is certainly a burning desire within the squad to reach the final again. It has been a frustrating 11 years waiting to bring the European Cup back to Welford Road after those back to back triumphs in 2001 and 2002.

"Last year we had to go to Toulon in the quarter-finals, but we all felt we could have come away with a result there. We are a club that is capable of winning on the road in the big games.

"When you look at this season then you'd expect Clermont to be up there again having been one of the best teams in Europe in recent years. Toulon have built on the squad that won the title last year and they look like they will attack it again.

"There are two or three good English clubs who will be pressing and the Ospreys will be a threat. Then you have to start thinking about the Irish provinces who have such a rich history in this tournament.

"That's what makes the European Cup so good - you simply can't pick a winner."

There are currently no matches being played
Fri, 23 March 2018
Crusaders v Bulls 06h35 Christchurch
Rebels v Sharks 08h45 Melbourne
Connacht v Edinburgh 19h35 Sportsground
Dragons v Cheetahs 19h35 Rodney Parade
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre 19h35 Scotstoun
Bath v Exeter Chiefs 19h45 Recreation Ground
Sat, 24 March 2018
Sunwolves v Chiefs 04h15 Tokyo
Hurricanes v Highlanders 06h35 Wellington
Kings v Treviso 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
London Irish v Gloucester 15h00 Madejski Stadium
Saracens v Harlequins 15h00 London
Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors 15h00 AJ Bell Stadium
Stormers v Reds 15h15 Newlands
Cardiff Blues v Ulster 15h15 Cardiff Arms Park
Munster v Scarlets 17h30 Thomond Park
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 17h30 Kingston Park
Ospreys v Leinster 19h35 Liberty Stadium
Jaguares v Lions 19h40 Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Sun, 25 March 2018
Leicester Tigers v Wasps 15h00 Welford Road
Sun, 18 March 2018
Waratahs v Rebels 51 | 27
Sat, 17 March 2018
Jaguares v Reds 7 | 18
Wales v France 14 | 13
Lions v Sunwolves 40 | 38
England v Ireland 15 | 24
Stormers v Blues 37 | 20
Italy v Scotland 27 | 29
Brumbies v Sharks 24 | 17
Highlanders v Crusaders 25 | 17
Fri, 16 March 2018
Cardiff Blues v Treviso 31 | 25
Edinburgh v Munster 12 | 6
Chiefs v Bulls 41 | 28
Sun, 11 March 2018
Wales v Italy 38 | 14
Sat, 10 March 2018
Jaguares v Waratahs 38 | 28
France v England 22 | 16
Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
La Rochelle 6 4 0 2 20
Wasps 6 3 0 3 17
Ulster 6 4 0 2 17
Harlequins 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 22
Saracens 6 3 1 2 18
Ospreys 6 2 1 3 15
Northampton Saints 6 1 0 5 6
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 6 0 0 27
Exeter Chiefs 6 3 0 3 15
Montpellier 6 2 0 4 13
Glasgow Warriors 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 6 4 1 1 21
Racing Metro 6 4 0 2 19
Castres 6 2 1 3 12
Leicester Tigers 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Scarlets 6 4 0 2 21
Toulon 6 4 0 2 19
Bath 6 4 0 2 18
Treviso 6 0 0 5 4