16/04/02.Leicester and Llanelli had morale boosting wins last weekend, while Castres drew 15-15 with Colomiers, and Jeremy Davidson warning that his former club on their day, can beat anyone.
We must do better – those were the identical messages out of the Leicester Tigers and Llanelli camps in the countdown to their Heineken Cup semi-final showdown at The City Ground, Nottingham, on Sunday, 28 April (kick-off 3.00 pm).
Leicester secured a fourth straight Premiership title with plenty to spare with their 20-12 victory over Newcastle Falcons and Llanelli booked their place in the 18 May Welsh Cup final by beating Ebbw Vale 34-17 in the double-header semi-finals at the Millennium Stadium.
But both sides were quick to play down their successes and instead stress they were a long way from firing on all cylinders.
I wish we had three of four more games before the Heineken Cup semi-final but instead we have to deal with putting a lot back into our game in a short space of time, said Gareth Jenkins, the Llanelli Director of Rugby.
We have not been together as a team for quite some time and, no doubt about it, we have lost some of our momentum. We have plenty of work to do.
Ebbw Vale gave us a hard afternoon in the semi-finals and we were exposed in one major way – they were clearly the better side in the first half and we needed that reminder. But half-time can make or break you and we went back out clearly focussed on what we had to do to win the match.
I did watch Leicester a few weeks ago, when they played Bath, and we have plenty of videos of them so I will not be going to watch them again before the semi-final. It is difficult to say how much we have to improve but we know we have two big weeks ahead of us.
And Darren Garforth, the stalwart Leicester prop, contributed more of the same. We have to play a lot better or we will not win the Heineken Cup, he said. We have not been playing well these last few weeks.
Dean Richards, the Tigers’ manager, chipped in with the boys are disappointed with the manner in which they played.
Meanwhile former Castres captain Jeremy Davidson – now with Ulster but out for six weeks injured – was present to watch his former team come away from Colomiers with a 15-15 draw on Saturday and thinks they have a good chance of making it through to the Millennium Stadium final on 25 May.
Munster stand in their way at Stade de la Mediterranee, Beziers, on 27 April (kick-off 3.00 pm) but British and Irish Lions and Irish international lock Davidson, given a hero’s welcome by Castres supporters, declared: Castres have a lot of talent and if they click they can beat anyone on the day. Munster are very good in Europe. They have great character and are very experienced at this level. They are very strong defensively so it will be difficult for Castres to break them down.2
I don’t think the Irish defeat to France will affect them either – Munster have a big squad and this is a different competition. However, anything can happen in a semi-final. The fact that the game is being played in France should give Castres an advantage and having spent three years at the club I have to back Castres although I think it will be a very tight affair.