Leicester have a decent chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup as one of the two best-performing pool runners-up. To go one better, as it were, and win Pool Four with possibly a home tie in the last eight, they must win away to Munster on Saturday and hope other results fall in their favour.
It may simply be that, for Leicester to top the pool, they need to achieve a better result in Limerick than the 21-19 victory Munster secured at Welford Road at the tournament's outset. Tigers did all they could when Cardiff Blues visited in the penultimate pool round. Six tries and two conversions without a point in reply was a fairly predictable outcome with the Welsh region already out of contention.
What no one can say with confidence is how close Leicester are to the form required to deny Munster, the champions, a 27th win out of 27 in Europe at Thomond Park, a ground so suited to the description "fortress" they ought to install ramparts and a moat when it is redeveloped later this season.
Daryl Gibson, the former All Black centre who scored one of the Tigers' four first-half tries against the Blues, said: "Thomond Park is a place I've always wanted to go and play at. A lot depends on Munster. If they kick corners and maul us to death, it could be a pretty boring encounter. They know that we're going to chase the game and take more risks, so they, I imagine, will be conservative. No one will pick us to win and our backs will be against the wall."
The Tigers stand second in the Premiership, level on points with Bristol, and though they have lost four of their seven away matches in the league they are scoring tries regularly. Three in the opening 10 minutes against the Blues, to be precise, with Alesana Tuilagi, Dan Hipkiss and Gibson crossing. A bonus point arrived after 31 minutes with Seru Rabeni's coruscating cut-back on to Ian Humphreys' pass.
"Leicester really did a job on us in the contact area," the Blues' head coach, David Young, said. "Their scrum and line-out is certainly the best in Britain, if not the best in Europe."
Humphreys, the fly-half who is "the best attacking 10 in the club" according to Gibson, was withdrawn as a precaution with a sore hamstring. The other No 10 contenders, Andy Goode and Paul Burke, are "touch and go" and "very close" respectively to be fit for Munster, according to the head coach Pat Howard, who watched his England forwards Lewis Moody and Martin Corry score second-half tries. "We know Munster are a good side and we respect them," Howard said. "We believe we have a side that can go there, play well, score some tries and ask some questions."
All the Blues were left with was an unwanted English East Midlands double - in the pre-regional days of 2002-03 they were pointless in a 31-0 defeat at home to Northampton in Europe.
Leicester: Tries Tuilagi, Hipkiss, Gibson, Rabeni, Moody, Corry; Conversions Humphreys 2.
Leicester: G Murphy; S Rabeni, D Hipkiss, D Gibson (O Smith, 54; F Murphy, 72), A Tuilagi; I Humphreys (S Vesty, 43), H Ellis; M Ayerza (J White, 48), G Chuter (J Buckland, 66), M Castrogiovanni (Ayerza, 64), L Cullen (B Kay, 55), L Deacon, S Jennings (J Crane, 69), L Moody, M Corry (capt).
Cardiff Blues: B Blair; T James (M Luveitasau, 68), J Robinson, M Stcherbina (N Macleod, 62), C Czekaj; N Robinson, M Phillips (E Fairhurst, 62); G Jenkins, D Goodfield (G Williams, 46), G Powell (T Filise, 64), D Jones (J Down, 72), S Morgan, B White (A Powell, 72), R Shellard, X Rush (capt).
Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).Reuse content