Nicol confident Caledonians can tame the Tigers
December 11, 1999
Glasgow Caledonians skipper Andy Nicol is confident of keeping the Scottish side's Heineken Cup hopes alive with a victory over Leicester at McDiarmid Park tomorrow.
The Super District have opted for the Perth home of Premier League soccer outfit St Johnstone to stage the glamour tie of their qualifying campaign.
But it is hard graft which will be required if the English champions are going to be turned over. "We have to stand toe to toe against them and not take a backward step," said Nicol, a veteran of clashes with the Tigers following his stint at scrum-half with Bath.
"They have strength throughout the side but traditionally their game plan has revolved around the forwards." With the exception of centre Ian Jardine, Reds coach Richie Dixon has been able to select a full strength side, which includes former Tigers centre Jon Stuart.
The main attacking threat will come through two of Scotland's kilted Kiwis, full-back Glenn Metcalfe and flanker Gordon Simpson, who has vacated the number eight role in favour of the equally bulky figure of Roland Reid.
All four sides in one of the tightest qualifying pools have recorded a win and a defeat so far, but the Reds will be desperate to maintain their unbeaten home record following an excellent victory over Leinster two weeks ago.
"It is Scotland against England,"said Nicol, who lifted the trophy with Bath two years ago, "these are the type of games you are desperate to be involved in.
"After the evenness of the first couple of games, we know that a slip-up now could virtually end our chances of making it into the knock-out phase. We already know there is not too much between the teams in our group and the necessity has to be to win your home matches."
The visitors could be without skipper Martin Johnson for the second successive weekend as he continues to receive treatment on a damaged Achilles.
The England captain missed last Sunday's Premiership defeat at Saracens, and Tigers manager Dean Richards said: "I am not sure whether he will make it for the Glasgow game.
"We are giving him every chance of passing a fitness test. He has been having daily treatment, and we are keen to get him back into the side as soon as possible."
Johnson's England colleague, Leicester number eight Martin Corry, is also struggling to play in Perth tomorrow, having sustained a knee injury.
Leicester and all their Pool 1 rivals Stade Francais host Leinster tomorrow are currently locked on two points each, confirming Richards' view that the group is wide open.
"Having just squeezed past Stade Francais in our first home game, we now have to carry on winning," he added.
"We cannot afford any more slip-ups, and Glasgow will be tough opponents. Their players have benefited hugely from playing regular rugby in the Welsh-Scottish League."
Saracens, currently languishing at the foot of Pool 4, must beat Pontypridd at Vicarage Road, or they will effectively face elimination.
Narrow defeats by Colomiers and Munster have put them in a perilous position, but victory over Leicester six days ago proved Saracens' undoubted quality and skipper Francois Pienaar will lead an unchanged side.
We bring you our pick of the best pictures from around the world in the last seven days with the battle for Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup glory taking centre stage
"If you listen carefully you should be able to hear them mining the granite for the statue of a certain Jonny Wilkinson" Graham Jenkins reports from the Heineken Cup Final
Quade Cooper's defence is better than it was 12 months ago and Robbie Deans has erred in omitting him from the core Wallabies squad to play the Lions, Greg Growden writes
"People on the outside think unfounded thoughts on Toulon." Tom Hamilton talks to RCT lock Nick Kennedy ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Clermont