Montauban confident of strong showing
January 8, 2008
Montauban host star-studded Worcester Warriors in Round 5 at Stade de Sapiac on Friday night with their Canadian international centre Ryan Smith confident they can make April's quarter-finals.
The Warriors have an eight-point lead over Montauban at the top of Pool 2 but Smith is adamant the French club is still very much in the last eight mix.
And with the five Pool winners and three best runners-up qualifying for the last eight, Montauban could finish with 21 points.
"It's hugely important for us to do well in the European Challenge Cup but obviously our position in the Top 14 is also key," said Smith.
"We do have a good chance of qualifying but we really need to put in a good performance against Worcester this weekend.
"When we lost away to Worcester there was a big difference in the performance levels - and I don't know why that happened.
"We were disappointed with the way we played over in Worcester and we are capable of playing better rugby than that.
"I know there is the belief that French clubs worry about home wins far more than away performances but I'd like to think that at Montauban we are not like that.
"Having said that, home advantage will play a key part in the game this weekend and our supporters will play a big role in getting us the crucial win on Friday.
"And we are going into the game on the back of a great run over Christmas, confidence is high and the guys are really pumped up.
"We were delighted with our win over Stade Français but it was a pity that there was then a break as I think we perhaps lost a bit a bit of momentum as we should really have beaten Biarritz Olympique at Aguiléra last weekend.
"We played 40 minutes of great rugby but in order to do well in the Top 14 and in Europe you need to be able to do that for 80 minutes, week in and week out.
"We are currently fifth in the Top 14 and of course our thoughts drift to next season and the possibilities that may open up for us.
"If we finish in the top six and qualify for the Heineken Cup next year it would be a great coup for the club.
"Winning the European Challenge Cup is a tough route for us to take to get into the Heineken but European rugby is a unique experience for all of us and we are enjoying the Challenge Cup and we will take any opportunity we get to move into the premier tournament.
"It's surprising for us to see where Worcester are in the Guinness Premiership as when we played them, they certainly didn't seem to have many weaknesses.
"They have several household names and the likes of Pat Sanderson - who I know from playing sevens - and All Blacks such as Sam Tuitupou and Rico Gear make for a pretty formidable side.
"I really enjoy playing against English sides but I don't manage to see much of the Premiership on TV so it's interesting to see what level these teams are playing at. It's also interesting for us to see what level we're playing at when we come up against these teams."
FRIDAY 11 JANUARY, 2008
SATURDAY 12 JANUARY, 2008
SUNDAY 13 JANUARY, 2008
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
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene