Planet Rugby

The pressure is on Clermont - Cockerill

01st April 2014 18:02


Manu Tuilagi LEicester try v Clermont hec 2011

Tigers: 'Shackles off'

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill believes Clermont's formidable home record should be seen as an opportunity, not an insurmountable obstacle.

Les Jaunards are unbeaten in an incredible 74 games at Parc de Sports Marcel Michelin and are the overwhelming favourites in Saturday's Heineken Cup quarter-final.

But Cockerill has called on his players to remember that it was Leicester who conquered Europe's last great fortress when they became the first Heineken Cup team to beat Munster at Thomond Park in 2007.

The former Clermont hooker - who spend two years at the French club - was also part of the Tigers side that established a 57-game unbeaten run from 1997 to 2002, so he is better placed than anyone to understand the pressure on the home side.

"We're going there with the mindset that it's a great opportunity for us," said Cockerill.

"It's probably the toughest place to go for a quarter-final, but it gives us the chance to make some history with their home record.

"It's like going to Thomond Park in 2007. They will lose that record at some point, why can't it be on Saturday at 5pm? Like all sides they're vulnerable on their day.

"For once the expectation isn't on us. We're expected to get beaten so we can go there with the shackles off.

"We'll throw everything at them and see where we get to. If we win it would be a huge result in the history of the club.

"With a record like theirs sometimes you worry more about not losing than winning, getting through it rather than performing.

"Montpellier is the top team in the Top 14 and we beat them home and away in the pool stages. Maybe that's a good omen for us.

"We all know Clermont's strengths, with a powerful pack and world-class players such as Brock James, (Aurélien) Rougerie, (Sitiveni) Sivivatu or (Naipolioni) Nalaga. They're a fantastic club and a fantastic team. We will have to be very good in defence and keep focused on what we do well.

"The pressure is on Clermont, though, as they aim to claim a European title. We will go there with our own strengths, play as hard as we can, and we'll see what happens.

"We have a lot of international players, including some Lions players who came back tired after the tour of Australia. We didn't have such a good start to the season but we're getting better and we have built our season game after game. Key players have been missing at points but, except for Tom Croft and Geoff Parling, everyone will be okay for Clermont."

Cockerill indicated that Welshman Owen Williams is likely to continue at fly-half with club captain Toby Flood remaining on the bench.

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Clermont Auvergne 35 - 3 Sale Sharks
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