Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Slater not daunted by Clermont trip

Leicester captain Ed Slater refuses to cast his Tigers as humble underdogs when they challenge Clermont's supremacy at the Stade Marcel Michelin.

The rivals clash on Saturday afternoon for a place in the Heineken Cup semi-finals, where either Ulster or Saracens await.

Also at stake is Clermont's intimidating home record of having amassed 74 successive victories in all competitions in a triumphant sequence dating back to November 2009.

Slater admits such a formidable run is impossible to ignore, but insists the prize of claiming a place in the last four of the Heineken Cup is a greater incentive than making history.

"Everybody's been talking about their record and how long it's been going for. The players are aware of it," Slater said.

"The win itself will be huge because it's the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup. That's the biggest incentive - you can't get too wrapped up in that home record.

"I wouldn't say we've got nothing to lose going over there and there's no pressure. We have everything to play for."

In trademark fashion, Leicester are producing a strong end to the season with six successive victories in the Aviva Premiership thrusting the reigning champions back into title contention.

The most recent of those was Saturday's 22-16 victory at Northampton, a result that Slater views as solid preparation for the task of proving their status as overwhelming underdogs against Clermont is undeserved.

"Winning at Franklin's Gardens was a massive boost for us considering some of the setbacks we've faced this season," he said.

"Northampton was a massive challenge because they hadn't lost at home in the Premiership all season.

"To come out of that with a good result and good performance....we deserved the win and it's something we can take into Clermont."

Slater has a personal incentive for excelling within a victorious Leicester team on Saturday, aware that England head coach Stuart Lancaster will be watching his performance closely.

The 25-year-old lock, who has profited from the shoulder injury sustained by Tigers colleague Geoff Parling, was a member of Lancaster's RBS 6 Nations training squad.

The imperious form of Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes, who he outplayed at Franklin's Gardens last weekend, and the presence of Dave Attwood on the bench blocked his path to selection.

But recent displays mean he is knocking on the door louder than ever and a strong end to the season is likely to result in his selection for the summer tour to New Zealand.

"Playing on the biggest stage in club rugby is going to help my cause in terms of performance and whether I can handle the pressure," he said.

"It could enhance my case for a spot in that England squad going into the summer.

"The credit Courtney and Joe got over the Six Nations was warranted because they were by far the best partnership in the competition. I have no argument there.

"I was happy with the way I played against Northampton. Does that mean I've earned a place in the England team? I wouldn't say so.

"Courtney and Joe justified their selection. I want to play for England. I'm a proud Englishman and it's something I'll strive for."

Uncapped Welshman Owen Williams continues at fly-half, keeping club captain Toby Flood on the bench, while Mathew Tait and Blaine Scully return at full-back and wing.

Clermont have been hit by the loss of wing Sitiveni Sivivatu to a calf injury and full-back Lee Byrne to a knee problem, but hooker Benjamin Kayser, flanker Julien Bonnaire and lock Jamie Cudmore are restored to the pack.

Saturday's quarter-finals open with Toulouse's first visit to Thomond Park where they face Munster, who are led by Peter O'Mahony after the Ireland flanker recovered from a hamstring ailment.

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph