Northampton v Perpignan, Heineken Cup Semi-Final, May 1
Perpignan prepared for physical encounter
ESPNscrum Staff
April 25, 2011
Perpignan prop Nicolas Mas takes on Stade Francais scrum-half Noel Oelschig during their Top 14 clash at Stade Aime-Giral, Perpignan, France, March 27, 2010
Mas takes on the Stade Francais defence during their Top 14 clash last month © Getty Images

Perpignan prop Nicolas Mas is expecting a bruising contest when his side tackle Northampton in the Heineken Cup semi-finals at stadium:mk on Sunday.

The Top 14 giants, the only semi-finalist not to have won the trophy before, are looking to book their only their second Heineken Cup Final appearance following their 22-17 defeat at the hands of Toulouse in 2003 and the Catalans' co-captain is not expecting an easy ride from their Premiership rivals.

"The Heineken Cup semi-final promises to be a really tough game - especially as the Saints are hosting it in this new venue," said the French international. "Their team has done brilliantly in the tournament this season, winning all seven of their matches.

"It will be a big challenge for us to go and play there but we will go there armed with a huge appetite and strong ambitions because we want to do well and you don't get involved in matches like this every day.

"Our progression in the Heineken Cup this season is much better than in previous years so that in itself is most satisfactory for the club. First we qualified for the knock-out stages - which is a considerable achievement - and now we are about to play for our ticket for the final.

"That is why we are highly motivated to play the semi-final. We won't let go and a couple more steps and we are there. Just like ourselves, Northampton Saints are a very physical outfit, especially up front with their captain Dylan Hartley and other internationals in their powerful pack. Then they have other English aces in the backs like Ben Foden and Chris Ashton so we are in for a really tough contest."

Perpignan took their quarter-final to Barcelona and their 29-25 Olympic Stadium win over Toulon ensured their debut tournament match across the border was a major success. They had a quick fire rematch with Toulon in the Top 14 last weekend with the Round 25 match at Stade Felix-Mayol ending in a 43-12 home win.

"The quarter-final in Barcelona was something that we had been waiting to do for such a long time," he said. "That meant we had a lot of pressure on our shoulders, so to come out as the winners was such an achievement and a delight for the players, coaches, club and the fans.

"Anything can happen now in the Heineken Cup and we will do our utmost to go all the way and have no regrets. If we can manage to qualify for the final by beating Northampton Saints I would quite fancy Toulouse to win their semi-final against Leinster so we can have an all-French final at the Millennium Stadium next month. However, there is still a lot of hard work to be done before then."

Heineken Cup Semi-Finals:

Saturday. April 30, 2011
Leinster v Toulouse, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, KO 15:30
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Sky Sports / FR2 / Canal+Sport

Sunday, May 1, 2011
Northampton v Perpignan, stadium:mk, Milton Keynes, KO 15:00
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Sky Sports / FR2

Heineken Cup Final

Saturday, May 21, 2011
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 17:00

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