European club rugby goes back under the spotlight with the Heineken Cup 2007 quarter-finals taking centre stage…
The Heineken Cup returns on the weekend of 30 / 31 March and 1 April with matches taking place in Llanelli, High Wycombe, Leicester and San Sebastian.
Defending Heineken Cup champions Munster get the quarter-final ball rolling with their clash with Llanelli Scarlets at Stradey Park on the Friday night with London Wasps and Leinster the Saturday showdown.
Sunday’s double bill kicks-off with Biarritz Olympique taking their match against Northampton Saints across the Spanish border to San Sebastian with Leicester Tigers having earned home advantage for the repeat of the thrilling 2001 final against Stade Français Paris.
Mike James, the Canadian international lock, is a survivor from the Stade Français Paris side beaten 34-30 six years ago but elsewhere the French club have been hard hit by injuries.
“Out for sure are Sylvain Marconnet, Dimitri Szarzewski, David Auradou and Mauro Bergamasco while we have got our fingers crossed for Rodrigo Roncero and, thankfully, Remy Martin is back in training following his viral infection,” said James.
“When you have a run of injuries like that – including two that were totally unrelated to rugby involving Sylvain and David – it just goes to show how important it is to have a squad that has genuine strength in depth.
“We believe in the quality of our squad and we will certainly be giving it our best shot against a Leicester team who, as far as I am concerned, are the reference point for what is the very best of northern hemisphere rugby.
“They have a solid squad, big-game players and, perhaps most important of all, the winning culture.
“We know we will be up against it but these are the type of matches you want to be part of – this is why you play the game – and there is no point in getting on the plane if your thoughts about the match are negative.
“What I can assure you of is that the 22 players who are in the squad on the day will play their hearts out for the club, though we will just have to wait and see if that is good enough.
“And it is a hugely important match for everyone connected with the club – but particularly so for those of us players, like myself, who are in the thirty-something category.
“The best of our careers are certainly behind rather than in front of us and this is the chance to achieve something really big for the club – we want to go as far as possible in the tournament.”