Phillips: Stade will turn on style
April 29, 2011
Ollie Phillips helped Stade comeback against Montpellier to secure a semi-final spot © Getty Images
Winger Ollie Phillips insists that Stade Francais have the ability turn on the style against Clermont Auvergne in their Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final on Friday, despite their fluctuating form this season.
Stade have endured a disappointing season domestically - they currently lie tenth in the Top 14 - and lost 20-12 to semi-final opponents Clermont two weeks ago. But the former Newcastle Falcons wing, who is on the bench for Friday's clash, insists that their comeback victory over Montpellier in the quarter-finals proves they can respond to the big occasion.
"It's all to play for us," he said. "This side has got that ability and talent to win these one-off games. We need to keep it together and keep it going.
"Make no bones about it, we would have been on suicide watch if we had lost to Montpellier. But we didn't. We're still in it and we've got Clermont in the semi-final at home and then we go up against Munster or Quins.
"It was a bit of a weird atmosphere in the changing room after the game against Montpellier because some people were a little bit disappointed. But I came in and thought, 'We're in the semi-final of a European competition against Clermont and one more win and we're in the final. Credit to the guys, they came back well. We scored four tries to one, so there was still some flair there. But a win's a win. We took that and moved on.
"Max [Stade owner Max Guazzini] came in at half time and let rip. Whether that made the difference or not, I don't know. But there's a lot of characters in the side and, despite what everybody thinks, we're fairly together and fairly united."
Due to Stade's poor showing in the Top 14 this season, the Amlin Challenge Cup represents the only way for them to qualify for next season's Heineken Cup and Phillips is determined to take it.
"It's our sole opportunity for Heineken Cup rugby next season, and also for some silverware," Phillips said. "For some boys leaving, and for those staying, this is the all-important game now. The Challenge Cup is much, much better now. The Heineken Cup sides have come down and they're hungry for European success and Heineken Cup success.
"The new set up's great. It keeps this competition really challenging and really interesting. Clermont are a top quality side. Their league form is hit and miss and they'll be eyeing this as a way of guaranteeing Heineken Cup rugby as well. It's a hugely difficult game but we're confident that we can win it.
"It's imperative for this club to be back in the Heineken Cup. Whilst the Amlin Challenge Cup is a great tournament, this club merits being on the biggest European stage. With the huge pedigree and history it has, that's where it should be and that's where we want to aim."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
ESPN looks at the forthcoming season of the Guinness PRO12 and assesses how each of the 12 teams will do
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch