Mignoni desperate for victory over Bath
Saturday 24 April 2004
There was an edge of desperation to the Montferrand scrum-half Pierre Mignoni as he contemplated today's Parker Pen Challenge Cup semi-final second-leg tie at home to Bath, the Zurich Premiership leaders.
"It is very simple, we must win," said the France international, whose team's defeat last weekend at home to Castres effectively ended their hopes of European qualification via the French Championship.
"We have to claw back their 14-point advantage and beat them because the only way we can save our season is to qualify for the Heineken Cup next year. And to do that we have to win the Parker Pen Challenge Cup."
But Mignoni knows it will not be easy. "Bath are an excellent team, as strong up front as they are behind the scrum. They have strength in depth and they will be going flat out to win."
Montferrand, who have been training behind locked doors in Vichy since Wednesday and will not arrive in Clermont Ferrand until 90 minutes before kick-off, will be without another France international, Franck Comba, who ruptured cruciate ligaments in his knee last week and is out for the season.
Bath change four of the side that disappointed at Northampton last week. Olly Barkley returns at fly-half, Simon Danielli is back on the left wing. Up front, the captain Danny Grewcock starts in the second row alongside the in-form Steve Borthwick, while David Barnes takes over from the injured David Flatman (achilles) at prop. Mike Catt (sore lower back) and flanker Michael Lipman (hip) face late fitness tests.
Harlequins take a nine-point advantage over to Galway for tomorrow's semi-final second leg tie against Connacht, who are hugely motivated.
If the under-rated province win the Challenge Cup and gain automatic entry into next season's Heineken Cup it will mean one of the big three - Munster, Leinster or Ulster - having to drop down into the lesser tournament. The hot money is on Ulster, although the whisper is that nothing formal has been decided.
Quins will be without the hooker Tani Fuga, who has just begun his seven-week suspension after being found guilty by ERC of stamping on Connacht lock Damian Browne - Quins have confirmed that they have lodged an appeal against the length of the ban.
Mel Deane and Paul Burke return to the centre and fly-half positions, while James Hayter replaces Fuga and Pat Sanderson returns to the back row.
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