Leicester 42 Cardiff Blues 20: Stylish Leicester ready to roll out the welcome mat for Loffreda

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The Independent Online

When Leicester's new head coach, Marcelo Loffreda, wings in to Welford Road today he will receive a welcome present of a DVD recording of Saturday's win over Cardiff Blues which established the Tigers as favourites to win their EDF Energy Cup pool.

"Dear Marcelo," the gift tag might read, "this is who we are and what we're about. See you on the training ground." Loffreda, sensible and successful chap that he is, is said to be in no hurry to start barking any orders. Apart from conducting a press conference on Wednesday he will leave the caretaker coach, Richard Cockerill, to pick the next team.

Still, Leicester's keenness to show the best of themselves after the re-assimilation of four England World Cup players was translated into a five tries to two defeat of the Blues. A powerful scrum and a kicking fly-half in Andy Goode should be right up Loffreda's avenida.

"It's nice Marcelo can watch this game and see what kind of side we are," said Martin Corry, Leicester's man-of-the-match flanker and sometime World Cup captain during England's run to the final. "That's the important thing: regardless of who's playing for Leicester, we're producing the goods. We're going in with eyes wide open and I'm looking forward to working with him."

The Blues' head coach, David Young, had half a dozen new injuries to worry about before his side's home Heineken Cup tie with Bristol on Sunday and he appeared well satisfied that his boys had given the Tigers a decent game.

Even if you went along with Young's theory that the scoreline was falsely lopsided, it did not convince you the Blues were intent on shaking European rugby to its roots.

That is the role Leicester perennially define for themselves, and which Loffreda, sooner rather than later, must live up to.

The 48-year-old Argentinian is taking up his first full-time job in the sport buoyed by guiding Los Pumas to third place in the World Cup and No 3 in the IRB rankings. Loffreda and his team got home from France to be feted with some backslapping from their country's current and last-but-one presidents, Cristina and Nestor Kirchner. In case you aren't up with your Argentinian politics, they are man and wife; Mrs K succeeded her hubby after elections a week ago.

Last time Leicester put Cardiff to the sword here, 34-0 in January, their next trick was to go to Limerick and beat Munster in the Heineken Cup. This Saturday the Tigers head to Ireland again, to face Leinster at the Royal Dublin Showground in the opening match of this season's European competition.

They appear utterly confident that Loffreda's showing up will add to the mix rather than disrupt it. Corry said: "I don't know what to expect, and that's the exciting bit about it. Marcelo is coming over from a massive high of how Argentina performed in the World Cup and when you get to my age [34] it's nice to have things around the corner which you can't predict."

Yet this is a club which prides itself on meticulous planning. Argentina's recent results make the choice of Loffreda after a series of interviews last winter look all the more sound, though doubly intriguing in that another candidate was Jake White, who took South Africa all the way in the World Cup, defeating the Pumas in the process.

While White is being touted for almost every job going, including possibly with England, Loffreda will reacquaint himself with the Leicester team he watched beating Llanelli Scarlets in the Heineken Cup semi-final at the Walkers Stadium in April. He then kept in regular touch with Corry by phone until each man's international duties took precedence during the summer.

"I will modify some things but my intention is not to impose a vision which is different from the club's," Loffreda said last week. "I'm not going to destroy anything. I hope I'm going to add to what is already there." Could one of the additions be Juan Martin Hernandez? Leicester are turning a profit, but it would be costly indeed to prise the highly-prized Puma fly-half away from Stade Français.

Against the Blues the Tigers' present strength was evident, with five internationals on the bench, plus the All Black centre Aaron Mauger on the way in December, and England's Harry Ellis and George Chuter to return from injury. "During the World Cup the other lads were given a chance and did well," said Corry, though Leicester lost to Gloucester, Saracens and Bath in that difficult interregnum while they were 13 players light.

"If we want to compete on all fronts, with the season as long as it is, we need to have two first teams." Corry described getting back to club duty as "like a holiday – after a day or two you feel like you've never been away."

After a moment's thought, he added: "Not that I've been on holiday."

Leicester have just added two eminent former players, Sir Clive Woodward and Rory Underwood, to their board as non-executive directors. They have been party to the new deal between the Premiership clubs and the Rugby Football Union – "we've all had to move positions in order to make it work and we've got to test that out yet," said Peter Wheeler, Tigers' chief executive. More planning, you see. Blimey, Corry even worked out how best to survive with dignity intact during the team's charity pledge to sprout facial hair throughout November. "I had the closest shave possible on the 31st of October," he said.

The good cause is the wheelchair-bound former Tigers and England Under-21 prop, Matt Hampson. Those leading the fund-raising by the nose, or what's under it, are Goode and the Irish full-back Geordan Murphy, who sported the most hilarious sets of rugby whiskers since JPR Williams' sideburns.

"The aim is to look as silly as possible," said Goode, after he had set up two Leicester tries with deft kicks and then retired early to protect a niggling knee. His Viva Zapata! look would not be out of place rounding cattle up on the Pampas. Just another thing to help make Señor Loffreda feel right at home.

Leicester: Tries Varndell, J Murphy 2, Hipkiss, penalty try; Conversions Goode, Burke 3; Penalties Goode 3 Cardiff Blues: Tries: Rush, Blair; Conversions Blair 2; Penalties Blair 2

Leicester: G Murphy; T Varndell, D Hipkiss, S Rabeni, A Tuilagi (J Murphy, 40); A Goode (P Burke, 53), F Murphy (C Laussucq, 67); M Ayerza, B Kayser (M Davies, 64), J White (M Castrogiovanni, 50), L Deacon, B Kay (J Hamilton, 67), M Corry (capt), L Moody (L Abraham, 70), J Crane.

Cardiff Blues: B Blair; J Roberts, T Shanklin, G Thomas, T James (R Williams, 59); N Robinson (D Flanagan, 31), R Rees (J Spice, 49); J Yapp, G Williams (R Thomas, 70), T Filise (G Powell, 70), B Davies (R Sidoli, 57), P Tito, M Molitika (R Thomas, 41-49; S Morgan, 57), M Williams, X Rush (capt).

Referee: N Owens (WRU).

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