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Richard Cockerill optimistic about Leicester's European chances after big win

Published 10/04/2016

Leicester, pictured, will play Racing 92 in the semi-finals
Leicester, pictured, will play Racing 92 in the semi-finals

Richard Cockerill insists Leicester Tigers can claim their first European Cup title since 2002, even if they have to do it the hard way.

Leicester's Champions Cup title credentials will come under extreme scrutiny when taking on Dan Carter's Racing 92 at Nottingham's City Ground on Sunday, April 24.

Racing toppled three-time European champions Toulon 19-16 in Paris on Sunday to book the semi-final showdown with Leicester, who thumped feeble Stade Francais 41-13 at Welford Road.

While rugby director Cockerill remains confident Leicester can still go the distance in Europe, he conceded no English side can match the squad depth of the cash-rich French elite.

"We know in a one-off game we can beat anybody," said Cockerill, with England boasting three teams in the European semi-finals for only the second time.

"We know we can beat them if we get it right. And if we get to a final that's a one-off game and we can back ourselves against anyone.

"When we get it right we know we can beat anybody, so we've just got to get it right as often as we can.

"The standard definitely cranks up again for that game, but I think we've got a good side as well.

"We've got good players and players to match their players.

"Racing are a different prospect to what we played today probably, but we'll just keep working and doing what we're doing.

"I think we can match the top French sides on our day, but the strength of their squads is something else."

While Saracens and Wasps will contest a place in the final in the other last-four tie, Leicester will now seek to reach their first top-tier European final since 2009.

Vereniki Goneva grabbed a try brace, with Manu Tuilagi, Freddie Burns, Mike Fitzgerald and Telusa Veainu also crossing as the Tigers overwhelmed their low-quality visitors Stade in Sunday's thrashing.

Tigers boss Cockerill admits Leicester will face a far stiffer test in the semi-finals, but is hopeful his side can now hit their stride and exploit the expansive style ushered in by head coach Aaron Mauger.

"Maybe now the grounds have hardened up it suits the Leicester style of play," said Cockerill, making light of Leicester's traditional 10-man game.

"I'll be in front of the board on Tuesday and they'll be asking me what's going on!

"Tuilagi got through 80 minutes again and I thought (Peter) Betham and Veainu were excellent today.

"Home advantage makes a huge difference in this tournament as results show, and hopefully we can capitalise on that.

"Hopefully we can just keep it going, but we've got another tough game going back to the league next week, against Northampton.

"So we just can't take our foot off at all."

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