Planet Rugby

Preview - Leicester v Stade Français

30th March 2007 13:55

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The Parisians, who are aiming to play their semi-final in the Stade de France if they manage to nick this, are missing several key players.

Club captain and lock David Auradou is missing, as are French international prop Sylvain Marconnet and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski.

Even so, the Parisians look a formidable unit, even more so with the news on Friday that Italian number eight Sergio Parisse had passed a fitness test.

The only non-internationals in the team are wing Julien Arias, flanker Pierre Rabadan, lock Boela du Plooy, and hooker Benjamin Kayser. To replace Marconnet, Fabien Galthié has called upon the Argentinian international Rodrigo Roncero.

The team will be led by Argentinian scrum-half Agustín Pichot.

Meanwhile, Andy Goode's display as a replacement in last Saturday's EDF Energy Cup win over Sale Sharks sees him start at outside-half for Leicester, with Harry Ellis selected at scrum-half.

Seru Rabeni returns after a calf injury to claim a spot on the right wing, with Tom Varndell taking a place on the replacements bench. Dan Hipkiss and Daryl Gibson continue their partnership in the centres, while Alesana Tuilagi's impressive form means he retains the left-wing berth.

In the forwards, an all-international front row sees George Chuter pack down between England colleague Julian White and Argentinian cap Marcos Ayerza, while the Italian prop of Argentinian birth, Martín Castrogiovanni, makes it into the squad for the first time since injuring his knee during the RBS Six Nations.

Howard opts for an all-England international combination in the second row, with Ben Kay partnering Louis Deacon.

Shane Jennings and Lewis Moody are selected on the flanks, with Martin Corry skippering the side from number eight - although Corry will have a fitness test on Sunday morning. If he fails that, Brett Deacon will play at eight, and Henry Tuilagi will go to the bench.

Corry, however, faces a late fitness test after picking up an elbow injury last weekend. If the British Lion is unable to play, Brett Deacon will move up from the bench to take Corry's place. Henry Tuilagi would then come into the squad as one of the seven replacements.

"Martin is an important part of our plans and we'll give him time over the next 48 hours to prove he's ready to play his part," said Howard.

"It's a massive game and everyone at the club is looking forward to it. Stade Francais are a hugely talented side and we know we'll have to be at our best to make it through to the next stage."

Castrogiovanni could make his first appearance for Tigers since the home win over Newcastle Falcons on January 27.

With Goode, Ian Humphreys and Paul Burke all available, Howard had a tough call to make as far as the fly-half spot was concerned.

"We've got three fit fly-halves so the No.10 shirt was always going to be very competitive. Ian's been in good form but Goodey's display when he came on against Sale showed a real degree of control and he deserves his chance.

"There is a great feeling about the match as we'll be playing against some of the best players in Europe. I am sure they are looking at our side and feeling the same. It's very nicely matched and it's worth the admission money!"

Form: Both teams are sitting pretty domestically, with Leicester only second in the Premiership by virtue of the point they had docked for a player registration offence, and the Parisians three points clear in the Top 14. Plenty of history between the two teams, with Leicester winning the two matches that counted - the 2001 final and the pool match at Welford Road last season that saw the Parisians eliminated by Dan Hipkiss's late try.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Seru Rabeni, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Daryl Gibson, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Martin Corry (c), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Lewis Moody, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Julian White, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.

Replacements: 16 Gavin Hickie, 17 Martín Castrogiovanni, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Frank Murphy, 21 Ian Humphreys, 22 Tom Varndell.

Stade Français: 15 Juan Martín Hernandez, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Stéphane Glas, 12 Brian Liebenberg, 11 Christophe Dominici, 10 David Skréla, 9 Agustin Pichot, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Rémy Martin, 6 Pierre Rabadan, 5 Mike James, 4 Boela du Plooy, 3 Pieter de Villiers, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.

Replacements: 16 Mathieu Blin, 17 Juan Gomez, 18 Arnaud Marchois, 19 Antoine Burban, 20 Jérôme Fillol, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Mirco Bergamasco.

Date: Sunday, April 1

Venue: Welford Road

Kick-off: 15:30 (14:30 GMT)

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)

Touch judges: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Olan Trevor (Ireland)

Television match official: David McHugh (Ireland)

Assessor: Brian Leigh (England)

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