Nallet: League form counts for nothing
November 9, 2011
Nallet will hope to lift the Heineken Cup come May © Getty Images
Racing Metro skipper Lionel Nallet has warned his side not to take into account league form ahead of Friday's Heineken Cup clash with Cardiff in Paris.
The Parisian side are currently 11 points adrift of Toulouse in the Top 14 while Cardiff are struggling in the RaboDirect PRO12 with just three wins from their first eight games. And with Edinburgh also languishing towards the bottom of the Celtic league table, Nallet believes domestic form counts for nothing when it comes to the Heineken Cup. And the French lock believes the competition will come as a welcome relief for his side.
"This season we are again in a relatively tough Pool," Nallet said. "We do not have any French or Irish opposition this time, only Welsh, Scottish and English clubs, and he know the level will be challenging. We know that in each Heineken Cup tournament each Pool is full of top teams, the best In Europe, and that, regardless of the form of each club in their domestic league, when the Heineken Cup matches are played they produce something special.
"Quite often we see teams who are not doing that well in their own table come up with massive European campaigns, so the rankings do not always mean that much in terms of what is going to happen in the Heineken Cup.
"Generally speaking British teams lead both national and European tournaments with the same energy and focus but, having said that, the ambitions in the French clubs are up there with the rest. We have had a mixed start in the Top 14 but that does not stop us from wanting to make a great start in the Heineken Cup."
Racing recruited France centre Fabrice Estebanez - who took his Racing bow on Friday against former side Brive - over the summer but will be without Springboks centre Francois Steyn and Italy's Mirco Bergamasco for their clash with Cardiff. Star Argentinean back Juan Martin Hernandez is back in the fold after recovering from injury but they face concerns over the fitness of talismanic back-row Sebastien Chabal. And Nallet is only too aware of the threats the Blues pose after he came up against many of their charges in the World Cup semi-final.
"Cardiff Blues are our first opponents and out of our three group opponents they are probably the ones I am most familiar with," Nallet said. "They have six of Wales' World Cup players - Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Lloyd Williams, Gethin Jenkins, and Bradley Davies - in their squad and of course France played Wales in Auckland less than a month ago.
"Of course that game is still fresh in my memory but I won't take that into consideration on Friday night - the Heineken Cup is a whole different competition and situation. In addition to their World Cup players they also have other great players in their ranks like Paul Tito.
"I did notice him when he was playing in New Zealand and, although I have not followed him so closely and as much since he came over to Europe, he was a brilliant back then so I don't think that has changed much. And then there is Bradley Davies. He is part of the new generation and is really talented, he has a bright future ahead of him and is excellent in the line-out.
"The Heineken Cup is a hugely prestigious competition and we are really looking forward to our second season in the competition."
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