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PREVIEW: Tigers and Stade have honour of kicking-off Champions Cup campaign

Wednesday 11th November 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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There was a time when Leicester Tigers and Stade Francis Paris were the cream of the crop in European club rugby

There was a time when Leicester Tigers and Stade Francis Paris were the cream of the crop in European club rugby

There was a time when Leicester Tigers and Stade Francis Paris were the cream of the crop in European club rugby, culminating in their epic battle at Parc des Princes for the old European Cup in 2001.

Thoughts of that 34-30 triumph for the Tigers will no doubt be resurrected in the minds of home fans as the newly crowned French champions head to Welford Road for the first game in the Champions Cup.

While the Tigers can point to two European Cup wins (2001, 2002) and three other final appearances (1997, 2007, 2009), Stade have been runners-up in the European Cup twice (2001, 2005) and the Challenge Cup twice (2011, 2013).

But Sergio Parisse’s men surprised everyone last season by winning the French Championship last season and are almost back up to full strength again after the World Cup. Adding Wallaby scrum half Will Genia and Springbok flanker Willem Alberts has also given them a boost.

“Friday night under the lights at Welford Road, the Champions Cup, Leicester Tigers v Stade Francais, these are the big fixtures that everyone wants to be involved in,” said Tigers director of rugby, Richard Cockerill.

“It's going to be a big start for us. It's the first game of this season's tournament – we kick the whole thing off – which is kudos to us.”

It will also be a first game as a coach for Aaron Mauger, who has re-joined the Tigers in a new capacity this season, bringing Scott Hansen with him. Three wins in four starts was a great beginning in the Aviva Premiership, but this weekend is bound to be a step up for players and coaches alike.

While Genia is still finding his feet in Paris, half-back partner Morne Steyn has committed his long term future to the club by signing a new two year deal. He is excited at making his debut in the Champions Cup.

“I am happy to sign for another two years for the club. You could see last season what we are capable of by winning the Top 14 and I’m really looking forward to playing in the Champions Cup for the first time, kicking off in Leicester,” said Steyn.

Tigers will be pleased to have seen their Welsh outside half Owen Williams back in full harness last weekend and kicking well again, even though the side went down to a 19-12 defeat at Exeter Chiefs. With Freddie Burns still on the sidelines Williams made a timely return after knee surgery.

Match Facts

  • Leicester have won just three of their last eight Champions Cup matches however those three wins all came at home.
  • Tigers have lost just one of their last 28 home games in the competition (W25, D2).
  • The spoils are split evenly at four wins apiece between these sides, though Leicester Tigers have won the last two instances of this fixture.
  • A loss for Stade Français would be their third in succession, equalling their longest run of defeats in the Champions Cup.
  • Stade Français’ last four games against English opposition have all been settled by margins of five points or fewer.

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REPORT: O’Connor makes dream Euro debut

Friday 13th November 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Brendon O'Connor only landed in Leicester last week

Brendon O'Connor only landed in Leicester last week

Brendon O’Connor only landed in Leicester last week, but the Kiwi back row man became an overnight hit with the Welford Road faithful as he made one try and scored another in a bonus-point win over the French champions.

This game was a repeat of the 2001 European Cup final and the fans were rewarded with another classic as both sides threw the ball around from the start. Stade held the upper hand to begin with, but 20 points in the space of 15 minutes around half time but the Tigers in the driving seat.

The Tigers may have felt slightly hard done by when Peter Betham’s early effort was ruled out because of some obstruction from Marcos Ayerza, but it didn;t stop them from going on to register four tries.

Stade lost the services of their former Tigers scrum half Julien Dupuy with a knee injury and not long after Julien Tomas had taken over his role the replacement opened the scoring with a classic French try. The ball went through eight pairs of hands, stating on the Stade 10 metre line and ending with full back Hugo Bonneval passing out of the tackle on the floor five metres out for Tomas to cross.

Morne Steyn couldn’t convert, but two minutes later the South African landed a monster penalty from half-way to stretch the lead to eight points and put the Tigers on the back foot. But O’Connor won a vital turn over to pave the way for a try from Vereniki Goneva wide on the left and that was the start of the home revival.

Owen Williams added the extras and then Matt Smith powered over in the same corner to give the Tigers a deserved interval lead. The second half started with a 50 metre gallop from O’Connor to score in the corner and then a Williams penalty made it 20 points in 15 minutes.

Stade skipper Sergio Parisse then conjured up a pass out of the back of his hand to create a try for Paul Williams to ensure the game remained a contest going into the final quarter, but when Ben Youngs swooped for the bonus-point try it was clear the points were going Leicester’s way.

Julien Arias grabbed a consolation try for the French champions, but penalties from the boots of Owen Williams and Seremai Bai completed a great night’s work for the Tigers.

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