Kiwis Daryl Gibson and Regan King are on a Heineken Cup semi-final midfield collision course – and Gibson believes his fellow All Black is in the form of his life.
“I am a Regan King fan, he is a fantastic player and by all accounts he has played particularly well last year and this,” said Tigers vice-captain Gibson, capped 19 times by the All Blacks.
“He is obviously the danger man out wide for Llanelli so if we can keep him quiet we are half way there.
“It is a shame that he left New Zealand, though I can understand the reasons why. I think centre is one position where we are particularly weak – a player like him could have filled the position Tana has vacated and the way he is playing it is a shame that he is not playing in New Zealand.”
Gibson is looking forward to the semi-final and a chance to build on victories over Munster at Thomond Park in the final Pool stage match and then Stade Français Paris at Welford Road in a pulsating quarter-final.
“Up until those two games we had not been playing particularly well and the Heineken Cup is a step up from the Premiership or the EDF so you have to play your ‘A’ game to even get close to progressing in this tournament,” he said.
“Fortunately on those two days we played the type of rugby we are proud to play, but Llanelli are just as tough.
“Their record in Europe is very good. They beat Toulouse in Toulouse – which is a record in itself – so it is perhaps shaping up as the clash of the semis.”
The Scarlets have been in two previous semi-finals and lost both to late kicks, Northampton Saints’ Paul Grayson and Leicester Tigers’ Tim Stimpson putting the boot in at the 2000 and 2002 semi-finals respectively.
For their part Leicester have played at the Walkers Stadium twice before and lost both times – 27-19 to Toulouse in the 2005 semi-finals and then 15-12 to Bath Rugby in last season’s quarter-finals.
And, with the match perfectly balanced, the only certainty this time is that it is going to be third time lucky for one of the two sides.
“It would be nice to get that voodoo off our back,” he added. “I enjoy playing there but unfortunately we have not won there and the fans are acutely aware of that.
“The fans do not particularly like going there but, for various reasons, we do.”
This match has been billed as the Leicester pack against the Scarlets backs, but Gibson believes that is unfair on the Leicester backs.
“As a back line I think we are very underrated. If you look at tries on the board for Leicester this season then most of them have come from the backs,” he said.
“Historically Leicester have always had a strong pack, but if you want to progress in this competition then you have to be strong across the board.
“And, with three English teams in the final four and both semi-finals being played in England, not only are England guaranteed representation in the final but things do seem set up for the English teams.
“On Saturday we have the chance to get to the Heineken Cup final and go on and win something – in the time I have been here we have won nothing.”