Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill praises 'cussed' players for Heineken Cup qualification

Tigers face a final showdown with Ulster in Saturday with both teams vying for a home quarter-final having already qualified for the last eight

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill has praised the “cussedness” of his squad after securing a place in this season's Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Tigers host Pool Five leaders Ulster on Saturday with both teams already through to the last eight.

At stake, though, is a home tie, and Leicester are set to achieve that prize if they win and deny Ulster two bonus points.

Given that the pool also includes French side Montpellier and Leicester's European campaign has seen a number of players absent through injury at various stages, their progress represents an impressive achievement.

"We've not been at our best and we've had some issues, but we keep picking up the points," Cockerill said.

"The performance can always be better, and we will look at that and work on where we can improve because we need to step up again, but we are in a decent place in all three competitions (Heineken, Aviva Premiership and LV= Cup).

"That is a credit to the whole of the squad. We've had so many injuries to key players, and multiple injuries in some positions, but we are still in the mix.

"To be at this point and already in the quarter-finals and going into the last round to play for a home quarter-final is testament to the quality and the cussedness of the squad."

Leicester's east midlands rival Northampton have been urged to "keep the momentum going" when they bid for an unlikely Heineken quarter-final spot on Friday night.

Saints are facing a group stage exit, with their only hope being to beat Pool One visitors Castres on Friday with a bonus point, and then hope that three-time European champions Leinster collect nothing from a Dublin appointment with the already-eliminated Ospreys.

Northampton, currently second in the Premiership, can expect the probable consolation of a spot in the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup last-eight if they defeat Castres, but Leinster emphatically hold pole position.

"Castres are the French champions and we know it's going to be a tough test," Saints fly-half Stephen Myler said.

"Heineken Cup qualification is not in our hands, but we can look after what we can control, and that is the Castres game, then we will see where that takes us.

"The important thing is that we keep the momentum going which we've built over the festive period, keep pushing forward and aiming to improve."

Premiership leaders Saracens, meanwhile, will qualify from Pool Three if they topple Allianz Park visitors Connacht on Saturday, but it is likely to be as a best runner-up, with Toulouse expected to win that group.

And Heineken Cup holders Toulon, who have already wrapped up Pool Two, could stake a strong claim to the number one quarter-final seeding by defeating Glasgow with a bonus point in Scotland.

 

PA

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