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Noves - We can't afford to lose

Toulouse coach Guy Noves believes his four-time European champions are already under pressure as they prepare for a record-breaking Heineken Cup clash against Saracens on Friday.

The French giants tackle their Pool Three rivals and unbeaten Aviva Premiership leaders at Wembley, with Noves feeling Toulouse's opponents have struck an early blow.

While Toulouse predictably saw off Italian side Zebre in bonus-point fashion six days ago, Saracens beat Connacht in Galway, a result that did not go unnoticed from Noves' point of view.

"We will have to be much more rigorous on Friday against Saracens, who won well at Connacht," he said.

"They already have that good result behind them, which means we will have to win at Connacht also.

"We are already under pressure, therefore, and it seems it wasn't that easy for them to come back from Galway with a victory.

"That shows how difficult our group is, and that the English are the favourites since they're unbeaten in the league as well so far this season."

Friday's game is set to be watched by a record Heineken Cup crowd for a pool fixture in the United Kingdom, surpassing the previous best of 45,892 when Saracens lost to Leinster at Wembley three years ago.

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall has made a number of changes from the side that toppled Connacht, with centre Duncan Taylor, scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, lock Alistair Hargreaves and flanker Jacques Burger all featuring.

New signing Marcelo Bosch, meanwhile, provides back-division cover on the bench, along with new England autumn Tests squad member Joel Tomkins.

"Everyone connected with the club loves playing at Wembley Stadium. It is a fantastic stage on which to perform," McCall said.

"Under Guy Noves, Toulouse have been, and still are, one of the most consistent sides in European rugby for more than a decade, having won this competition four times.

"They have a very powerful squad, so the size of the challenge under the lights of Wembley is clear for all to see."

Leicester continue their Heineken campaign at home to Treviso in Pool Five on Friday night, knowing that victory - preferably with a bonus point - would keep them on a quarter-final course despite an opening defeat against Ulster.

"Treviso will try to throw the ball around and disrupt us upfront, so we will have to be on our game to make sure that we get four points, if not five," Leicester flanker Julian Salvi said.

"We will be going for five points - that's our goal. If we can be on six points in the pool after two games, we will be sitting nicely."

Lock Graham Kitchener and number eight Thomas Waldrom both start for Leicester - Louis Deacon and Jordan Crane drop to the bench - with Blaine Scully replacing Miles Benjamin on the wing.

And while Leicester will start as firm favourites to beat their Italian visitors, last season's two Heineken meetings between the teams proved that Treviso are no mugs.

They pushed Tigers all the way at Welford Road before suffering a 33-25 defeat, and then Leicester pinched a 14-13 verdict on Italian soil six days later.


From Belfast Telegraph