Heineken Cup, Round 3
Meyer heaps praise on White
December 7, 2008
Tigers boss Heyneke Meyer belives Julian White can still offer England some front row grunt © Getty Images
Leicester coach Heyneke Meyer believes veteran tight-head prop Julian White is still good enough to play international rugby.
White, 36, has not featured for England since walking out on the squad before the 2007 World Cup due to family and farming commitments but his coach underlined his credentials after a vintage display in Leicester's 38-27 Heineken Cup victory over Perpignan.
England manager Martin Johnson was one of those at Welford Road to witness White and the dominant Tigers pack shove Perpignan all over the park. On the back of it, fly-half Toby Flood scored 23 points as Leicester maintained their unbeaten run and cemented their place at the top of Pool 3.
White had returned to the side after three weeks out with a neck injury and Meyer said: "He has been unbelievable. He is worth his weight in gold. He is good enough to play for most international sides. Julian hasn't played for three weeks. He is not 100% with his neck and in the end it was the big difference in the game. If he keeps going until he is 40 I will be happy."
Meyer does not buy into the criticism often levelled at White that, however powerful his scrummaging performance, he does not offer enough to a team around the field. "Doc Craven, one of the most famous South African coaches, always said you pick your tighthead first and then the rest of the team. I think world rugby has moved away from that - but I am still old school," said Meyer.
"I have been the national team's forwards coach and I always believe it is the most important aspect of the game because it is the first real contact of the game. It is one-on-one, you can't hide and if you get a psychological advantage there, it goes through everything."
Flood's two early penalties and well-taken try, when he stepped round Perpignan's rush defence, earned Leicester a 13-0 lead before the first quarter was up. Aaron Mauger profited from a scything run from Dan Hipkiss but Perpignan kept themselves in touch with a breakaway try from centre Maxime Mermoz and an opportunist effort from flanker Ovidiu Tonita.
But the Tigers scrum had been in destructive mood all night and finally broke Perpignan's resistance altogether when Leicester drove them 10 yards back over their own line for number eight Jordan Crane to touch down.
Matt Smith sealed the bonus point with a jinking break down the touchline and, although Perpignan engineered a late penalty try, Leicester's scrum had done the damage.
"That pack was phenomenal. They have so much talent and so much want and desire to be successful," said Flood. "Julian has done everything you possibly can do as a player and yet there he is at the forefront of our pack and pushing them over from 10 metres.
"Playing behind that pack and the atmosphere and drive it gives the team is unbelievable."
Leicester head to France next week for the return fixture, when Perpignan are set to have New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter in the side. Carter was unavailable yesterday after spending most of the week on promotional duties in Italy but he watched the match from the stands.
Meyer believes the hype and hooplah surrounding Carter's debut for Perpignan could work in Leicester's favour.
"Dan Carter is a world class player but the Premiership is full of the world's best fly-halves - Butch James, Nick Evans, Toby Flood," said Meyer. "It is not about one player. Sometimes that can work as a disadvantage because there is an expectation on him to win the game. I think it will work in our favour especially if they don't start well and we can put them under pressure."