European Challenge Cup
Dax prepared for on-fire Exiles
December 2, 2008
Dax boss Thomas Lievremont is looking forward to the visit of a high-flying London Irish © Getty Images
London Irish's dazzling Premiership form has seen them rise to the top of the table in recent weeks, and now the high-flying Exiles will turn their attentions back to the European Challenge Cup and a visit to face Dax.
Dax boss Thomas Lievremont has tipped Irish for the title at the end of the season, whilst also taking time to look forward to one more chance to pit his wits against Mike Catt, now on the coaching staff at the Reading based club.
"I remember Mike Catt from our first meeting at Stade de France way back in 1998," said Lievremont. I'm not at all surprised that he has gone into coaching as he was always a great strategist with a strong understanding of the game. I have a lot of admiration for him as a player and now I'll get to meet him as a coach. London Irish have a great deal of individual talent - and they have a very dangerous back line, which they showed in their semi-final against Toulouse last season.
"They are going to be really tough opposition and they are real title contenders this season in this tournament. We had a fine 13-6 win at Toulon over the weekend and that took us up to ninth place in the Top 14, which means our outlook going into this match is a little bit different to those at the beginning of the season. Then we were struggling in the league and obviously relegation was a big concern for us but now that we are up to ninth the pressure has eased a little and we are a bit more relaxed.
"However, we lost our first two tournament games and now we are going into the back-to back games against the team which I would say is definitely the strongest in the Pool with the greatest chance of qualification. It means we are now playing for pride and we have no intention of letting these games go easily.
"And the Heineken Cup is an important goal for the bigger clubs and for teams like Dax while the European Challenge Cup offers the opportunity to meet foreign sides and referees, all of which gives us a chance to improve our playing.
"I watched the first final in 1996 between Cardiff and Toulouse and remember that nobody really thought it would take off and now look at it. That first season we didn't realise what was starting."
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP 2008-09
(All kick-offs LOCAL times)
THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER, 2008
Pool 2 Montpellier v Toulon 20.45 Rob Debney (E) France 4
FRIDAY 5 DECEMBER, 2008
Pool 1 Dax v London Irish 19.00 Alan Falzone (It)
Pool 3 Bourgoin v Worcester Warriors 20.30 Colin Stanley (I)
Pool 4 Brive v Cetransa El Salvador 19.30 Claudio Passacantando (It)
SATURDAY 6 DECEMBER, 2008
Pool 1 Rugby Rovigo v Connacht Rugby 15.00 John Paul Doyle (E)
Pool 2 Northampton Saints v Bristol Rugby 15.00 Romain Poite (F)
Pool 4 Overmach Parma v Newcastle Falcons 14.30 Stefan Pomarede (F)
Pool 5 Bayonne v Saracens 20.45 Andrew McPherson (S) Eurosport France / Sky Sports
Pool 5 Mont de Marsan v Viadana 15.30 Gwyn Morris (W)
SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER, 2008
Pool 3 Bucuresti Oaks v Petrarca Rugby 16.30 Patrick Pechambert (F)