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It may look like a tough ask, but Leicester Tigers still haven’t given up on breaking out of their pool and reaching the Champions Cup quarter-final.
A trip to Paris to face the reigning TOP 14 champions, Racing 92, presents an opportunity to complete a rare double over French opposition and it is likely to take a minimum of two bonus point wins to take the Tigers up to 18 points to try to creep into the last eight.
Leicester, who host Glasgow Warriors in Round 6, have won only once in their last 11 trips across the Channel, but England prop Ellis Genge can’t wait to get his first taste of top-flight European action on French soil.
“It will be a different experience. We are still looking to get out of the group. We possibly need some results to go our way but we will concentrate on what we can control,” said Genge.
“We will go over there with some confidence and try to put on a performance for the fans and try to make it happen.”
It has been a traumatic few weeks for the Tigers having seen long-standing director of rugby Richard Cockerill leave the club and Aaron Mauger handed the job of steering the side through to the end of the season. They managed to beat Munster by a single point in Round 4, but still trail the Irish side by eight points in Pool 1 and find themselves five behind second placed Glasgow.
The last two weekends have seen them face the top two teams in the Premiership and get beaten on both occasions. But there was enough evidence in both performances against Saracens and Wasps to suggest there is still plenty to come from the team this season.
Having conceded three tries and 19 points without reply against Wasps in Coventry last weekend they turned the game on its head and were pressing hard for the victory by the end. They eventually went down 22-16, but emerged with huge credit.
“In the past two weeks we've played the top two teams in the competition and we've shown in both weeks that we are not far off. We'll take a lot of belief out of that,” said Mauger.
Racing have fallen from grace following last season’s title winning campaign. They also reached the Champions Cup final before going down to Saracens in Lyon.
They have yet to pick up a point in Pool 1 this season and were put to the sword by Munster in Paris last weekend, going down 32-7. They were also beaten 17-11 in Toulon the previous weekend.
Racing assistant coach Ronan O’Gara pulled no punches in his assessment of the defeat by Munster last week and can’t be looking forward to the Round 6 trip to his old stamping ground at Thomond Park.
“To know that you're that far off the pace is deeply disappointing. We're lacking detail in our game, we're probably not fit enough and Munster were better than us in every aspect of the game,” admitted O’Gara.
“They lost their way for a while but they are now a great outfit. The scary thing from our point of view is that we still have to go to Thomond Park and on our performance in Paris that could be beyond embarrassing.
“It's great if the right lessons are learned, but if lessons are brushed under the carpet then nothing is learned. I just hope we take the lessons on board and become a better side.”
- This will be the third time the clubs have met in the last 12 months, Racing won their semi-final encounter last season before Leicester’s triumph in Round 2 earlier this season.
- Leicester’s last away game (v Munster) saw them kept scoreless for just the second time; Ulster also managed the feat in 2004.
- Leicester have lost 10 of their last 11 away games against TOP 14 opposition, their only victory in that run coming against Montpellier in 2013/14.
- Leone Nakarawa has made 14 offloads this season, at least three more than any other player.
- Leicester have spent just 13 minutes and 32 seconds in possession on average per game this season – only Zebre (10m 59s) have had less possession.
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Racing 92 downed Leicester Tigers 34-3 to secure a bonus-point European Rugby Champions Cup success at Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir.
In their second game under interim coach Aaron Mauger, the Welford Road outfit struggled to cope with the power of the French side and paid the price for a huge number of mistakes.
Xavier Chauveau, Marc Andreu and Gerbrandt Grobler all crossed in the first half and a penalty try after the break ended the game as a contest.
Leicester did improve in a tighter second period but were unable to come up with a try of their own and Andreu completed the scoring late on to send them out of Europe.
The English side had been thrashed by both Glasgow and Munster on the road earlier this season and the early exchanges in Paris only pointed to another one-sided encounter.
Scrum-half Chauveau soon crossed for the game’s opening score in the 12th minute. Dan Carter missed the conversion but then booted a penalty before the New Zealander saw his team extend their advantage.
The score was all Leicester’s fault, the Tigers opting to run the ball clear but then turning it over. Andreu was the beneficiary, hacking on and dotting down under the posts.
Carter added the simple extras to make it 15-0 and with a quarter of the game gone, the visitors were in trouble. Ben Youngs’ exasperation summed things up and although Leicester did finally get themselves on the board with a Freddie Burns penalty, Racing soon moved further clear.
Carter missed with a penalty effort but Matt Tait knocked on behind the posts, handing the French side a scrum five metres out. From the set-piece lock Grobler powered over for another try Mauger’s side could easily have prevented. Carter converted for a 22-3 half-time lead.
Racing’s giant pack had finally turned up in Europe and another powerful forward surge saw them secure a bonus point soon after the restart.
A driving maul from a line-out was stopped illegally by the Tigers, referee Ben Whitehouse rightly going under the posts to award a penalty try.
Will Evans was yellow carded for his role in trying to prevent the score, with Carter once again adding the extras.
Antoine Claasen’s sinbinning for dragging down a Leicester maul then made it 14-a-side, but the Tigers were still having no luck.
What looked like a legitimate try was adjudged to have been held up by Whitehouse and then the Welsh official decided Burns’ kick to touch had gone dead.
The two incidents didn’t help Leicester’s mood and Andreu’s second with a couple of minutes to go compounded a miserable evening for the visitors.