Biarritz v Aironi, Heineken Cup - Pool 4, December 17
Aironi facing Biarritz backlash
December 16, 2010
Julien Laharrague slotted the winning points last weekend © Getty Images
Biarritz are back on home soil on Friday night as they welcome Aironi to the Parc des Sports Aguilera and last season's Heineken Cup runners-up will be spoiling for a fight after a shock loss to the Italian newcomers last weekend.
Fullback Julien Laharrague's late drop-goal secured a maiden win for the Italian franchise and stuck a spanner in the works for the Pool leaders, who now hold only a slender two-point advantage over chasing Ulster.
Aironi, meanwhile, will be training their sights on a surprise losing bonus-point to put further heat on Bath in third.
Biarritz - Player to Watch: Last weekend's defeat will have been a body blow to the club and flanker Imanol Harinordoquy, so often the beating heart of the side when they are at their best, will want to make major inroads into the visitors' defence.
Biarritz - Team News: Harinordoquy starts at No.8 and is joined in the back-row by Magnus Lund and the recalled Samiu Vahafolau. Julien Peyrelongue and Dimitry Yachvili are the halfbacks, with Damien Traille joined by Marcelo Bosch in midfield. There are changes up front as Yvan Watremez, Benoit August and Campbell Johnstone form a new-look front-row.
Aironi - Player to Watch: Last weekend highlighted scrum-half Tito Tebaldi's worth as a goal-kicker but he misses out to Pablo Canavosio this time around, who brings plenty of experience to the table, as well as a good eye for a break.
Aironi - Team News: Canavosio and Riccardo Bocchino get their shot at halfback, while Matteo Pratichetti shifts to outside centre in place of Rodd Penney. Giulio Rubini is recalled out wide. Salvatore Perugini wins a recall at loose-head and Luigi Ferraro is in at hooker. It's all-change in the back-row as Simone Favaro, Vickus Liebenberg and Jaco Erasmus get starts.
Key Battle: Biarritz cannot afford to allow Aironi a foothold and it is in the tight that they will apply the greatest pressure. Aironi's front-five are a solid unit and will take some shifting, but expect Jerome Thion to lead a fired up Biarritz pack into action.
Trivia: Last weekend's loss to Aironi was Biarritz's first to Italian opposition in the Heineken Cup and their conquerors' first win in any competition since their founding.
Stats: Biarritz have won their last six Heineken Cup home games but still have some way to go to match their tournament record of 19 straight wins on their own patch.
"This must be a lesson to us for the rest of the season and not just for a week." - Biarritz boss Laurent Rodriguez calls for his side to remember last weekend's loss.
"I come from playing in England with the British mentality to training and playing and now Rowland is bringing this to the club and all the players are right behind it. It is really benefiting the younger players who are making huge strides forward under him." - Marco Bortolami hails the influence of coach Rowland Phillips at Aironi.
Prediction: Aironi enjoyed their day in the sun last week but will feel the full force of the Biarritz backlash this time around. Comfortable home win.
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