Marcelo Loffreda will select his first Leicester Tigers team for Heineken Cup action in the Pool 6 clash of the champions at Welford Road on Saturday afternoon
Marcelo Loffreda will select his first Leicester Tigers team for Heineken Cup action in the Pool 6 clash of the champions at Welford Road on Saturday afternoon confident they have put their poor tournament start firmly behind them.
The coach who steered Argentina to third place in the World Cup less than two months ago will send his double champions out for the first of the back-to-back showdowns with treble champions Toulouse in buoyant mood and with one semi-final place under lock and key after beating Sale Sharks 32-8 to earn an EDF Energy Cup last four spot.
"We have won the last three games in league and cups, and I think we are improving with each game," said the Tigers' new head coach.
"We had a disappointing start in the Heineken Cup because we did not play well against Leinster. But I was really impressed with the performance a week later against Edinburgh.
"We played tactically well, we did very well in defence, we had a very high tackle count and we never allowed them to get forward and get into the game. We kept them out and we were able to score when we got close to their goal-line. We had some good possession against Leinster but were unable to get those scores so it was good to get the win against Edinburgh and start again.
"Now we know playing Toulouse home and away will be a big challenge and they are very important games for the team and the club.
"It is exciting for me to be involved in the Heineken Cup. It is a top-quality competition, as I have already seen from our last two games. Toulouse have a squad of international players and it is good for us to go into the games with some good form, though each game is a different story.
"We know that we are going to need a very high level for next Saturday. We will have to work very hard as the games against Toulouse will be massive tests of the mental strength and attitude of the players."
Tigers centre Ollie Smith, a Heineken Cup winner in 2002, added: "We are in a very tough group but to win European titles you have to beat all the best teams.
"As a team we came through a lot of big games last season in the Heineken Cup and, although we lost our first game in Europe this season, we just aim to keep going from game to game and we know that if we keep winning each game we will go into the quarter-finals, which is what happened last season after we lost in Round 1.
"We under-performed when we lost to Leinster in our first game but then we gave ourselves a chance by claiming a bonus point in the win over Edinburgh.
"That was important but, for it to count, we have to do well again against Toulouse. It is going to be a challenge but these are the games you look forward to and test yourself in."