'Barking mad' Mas will test Leicester's set-piece savvy

Weekend Preview



Leicester v Perpignan


When the England scrum-half Ben Youngs described Perpignan as "barking mad", he could have been talking of the team, the crowd, or both.

They were brave words in any event, and would have been braver still had he addressed them directly towards the Catalan front-row unit, which can reasonably claim to be the scariest in Europe. Leicester, no mugs themselves when it comes to the dark arts, found life extremely difficult at close quarters during last weekend's game down near the Spanish border and there is no guarantee things will be any easier at Welford Road tomorrow afternoon.

By selecting the local hero Nicolas Mas, the cornerstone of the France pack, alongside the tough Romanian hooker Marius Tincu and the itinerant New Zealander Perry Freshwater (who once served in the trenches at Leicester), the Perpignan coaches have made a statement of intent. They might have rested Mas, as they have held back the free-scoring full-back Jérôme Porical, for the big Top 14 Christmas match at Clermont Auvergne, but somewhere in the back of their collective mind, they believe they can win this game with another commanding set-piece performance.

Leicester remain in control of Pool 5, but the balance of power will shift decisively if they fail to subdue Mas and cramp the style of the brilliant centre Maxime Mermoz, back in the visitors' starting line-up after injury. The Tigers have named the England prop Dan Cole on the bench, which is where he finished last week's defeat after being substituted.

Cardiff Blues v Northampton

Last Saturday's fractious set-to at Franklin's Gardens featured more sledging than an Ashes Test, so it is no surprise that both clubs have named unchanged sides for tomorrow's return leg. Players who fall out with each other one week are always desperate for another go sooner rather than later, and in the modern rugby age, chances do not come along much sooner than this.

These are dangerous waters for the Midlanders, who have won all three of their pool games to date without looking comfortable in any of them. Their forward effort in the first game was persuasive enough, yet it was the Welshmen who looked the more dangerous away from the scrums and line-outs. With the Lions Test centre Jamie Roberts involved for the first time this season – he will be on the bench, having recovered from a serious wrist injury – the Blues must fancy their chances of arguing their way back into the debate.

Bath v Ulster

Another high-class midfielder will make his first appearance of the season in the shape of Butch James, the World Cup-winning Springbok outside-half. His return to a misfiring Bath side for the must-win encounter with Ulster, who have beaten the West Countrymen three times in a little over a year, should make a difference, although it will be asking a bit much of him to perform at optimum level after so long a break.

Every bit as significant is the absence of the brilliant Stephen Ferris from the Ulster back row and Olly Barkley's move to outside centre. If Bath lose, they are pretty much gone for another season. No pressure, then.

Toulon v London Irish

It is difficult to see the Exiles turning the tables on a Toulon side who beat them with something to spare in Reading six days ago, even though Jonny Wilkinson is being rested by the French club for today's return. His replacement, Felipe Contepomi, is hardly the worst player in the world, and with the Wallaby maestro George Smith added to the back row to operate alongside the majestic Joe van Niekerk, everything points to a no-shock result.

Wasps v Newport-Gwent Dragons

While the Londoners have lost Tom Rees to injury once again they have every chance of progressing from a group boasting Toulouse and precious little else. The task facing the Dragons, the weakest of the Welsh regional sides, will not be made easier by the return to the Wasps squad of Riki Flutey, who missed England's recent internationals with a calf injury.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Voices
Björt Ólafsdóttir is a member of Iceland's Bright Future party
voicesIceland's Björt Ólafsdóttir on her decision to take part in #FreeTheNipple
Life and Style
The Clove Club will charge customers when they book
food + drink
News
Lapping it up: a woman feeds felines at a cat café in Japan
newsThe vast majority of cat and dog 'wet foods' contain items not specified on the tin, study finds
Sport
Andros Townsend and Paul Merson
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat