European Challenge Cup
Ruddock backs Carlise to shine
December 5, 2008
Worcester's Joe Carlisle is tackled during the Premiership game between Bristol and Worcester Warriors at The Memorial Stadium in Bristol, England on May 3, 2008.
Carlisle will make his first start of the season as the Warriors look to score their thrid successive Challenge Cup victory © Getty Images

Worcester boss Mike Ruddock has backed 21-year-old rookie fly-half Joe Carlisle to rise to the challenge of tonight's European Challenge Cup clash with Bourgoin.

The Premiership side, last year's beaten finalists, travel to one of the most intimidating arenas in European rugby - the Stade Pierre Rajon - looking for their third maximum of the campaign that would put them within reach of the quarter-finals.

Carlisle will make his first start of the season in the Pool 3 encounter, but Ruddock said, "Joe has a huge amount of ability, and his passing is as good as anything I have ever seen during my time in coaching. He has a good rugby brain on his shoulders and makes good decisions.

"He went on in the final last year against Bath and made things happen. Joe has all the tools, and now it is time to find out how good he is. It is a great chance for him in a cauldron in Bourgoin with a passionate crowd behind the home side.

"This will be a good indicator to us as to whether Joe is going to take the next step on. It's time for him to push the guys above him and show us he can do it."

London Irish are also in action tonight, looking to preserve their unbeaten Pool One record at Dax's expense, while Newcastle will be desperate for victory over Italian hosts Overmach Parma tomorrow.

The Falcons though, could face a tough time, as Parma currently lead Pool Four and have their sights set on securing quarter-final status. Newcastle, beaten by Brive last time out in Europe, cannot afford another defeat, but Parma have no intention of rolling over.

"We are a pretty regular sort of team - no big names, just a bunch of boys who work hard for each other," said Parma's USA international centre Paul Emerick. "These are enormously exciting times for us, and it would be great to make history by sneaking into the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup and being the first Italian team to reach the last eight of either of the European tournaments."

Saracens, meanwhile, can also expect a testing time when they head to in-form French challengers Bayonne tomorrow night. Bayonne are currently fourth in the French Championship, and rugby director Richard Dourthe said: "Our aim is to qualify for the Challenge Cup quarter-finals, although it is a very ambitious objective.

"I think that after these next two games against Saracens we will have a clear idea of what our European fate is going to be, and we can only hope to achieve the best possible performances."

Premiership rivals Northampton and Bristol meet at Franklin's Gardens tomorrow for the third time in three different competitions this term. Saints won an Anglo-Welsh Cup clash in early October, before Bristol gained Premiership revenge almost three weeks ago - their first league victory since March.


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