Amlin Challenge Cup
Stade look to re-find former glory
ESPNscrum Staff
November 17, 2011
Stade Francais' Pascal Pape looks to exploit a gap, Worcester Warriors v Stade Francais, Amlin Challenge Cup, Sixways, Worcester, England, November 10, 2011
Pascal Pape tries to exploit a gap against Worcester © Getty Images

Stade Francais are showing signs of being back to their best following a summer of financial turmoil after they recorded a win in the opening round of the Amlin Challenge Cup last Thursday.

But while the triumph at the home of the English Premiership outfit, who were finalists in 2008, has given them early control of the Pool, Cheika is taking nothing for granted as his side prepares for Friday night's home clash with Bucharest Wolves at Stade Charlety.

"We will be giving some new guys a run against Bucharest, but we won't be taking them lightly because we know how much trouble they gave us last year, especially in the physical stuff. This year we won't get surprised," promised Cheika. "They played pretty well against us last year and made us struggle big time, especially over there. The players have to understand that if they want to get a run in the Top 14, or if they want to break into the first team, they have to make the most of every minute they get because we have more competition for places this season.

"We are just trying to build our team to go well in the Top 14 and, if we can keep performing in the Amlin Challenge Cup and it takes us to a position where we can qualify, then we will think about things then. Obviously we want to play in the Heineken Cup and we have two opportunities to qualify for that via the Top 14 and the Amlin. We want to do whatever we can to do that, but it will be one performance at a time."

Despite seeing his side concede two tries in the opening 12 minutes at Sixways, there was no panic from either the coaching bench or the team. Using the power of their pack, Sergio Parisse's side were able to knuckle down and dominate the rest of the game. Six penalties from Argentine ace Felipe Contepomi, and a try from former England wing Paul Sackey, eventually hauled Stade past their hosts and not only allowed them to pick up four points, but stopped the Warriors from taking anything out of the game.

"We've had a lot of work to do to integrate the team, not only from the start of the season, but also with 10 players coming back from the World Cup," said Cheika. "Nothing but the time of playing together can solve that issue, but we have had a couple of good matches in a row now.

"But we have to consistently prove ourselves week-in-week-out if we want to become a top team in the end. We still have a long way to go but, if we can keep stringing good performances together, it will give us a bit more self-belief. Considering we were 14-0 down after 10 minutes it was a good comeback. I thought we really showed we wanted it - we got up there and really dominated.

"We had a big match in the Top 14 at Stade de France the weekend before and that can be a bit emotional. We had to be on our game and after those first 10 minutes, but we dominated the rest and we could have scored another try or two. It was our first win on the road this season, and we also kept them away from a bonus point, so we will be happy to take it.

"The guys are getting more experienced. Building a team and a club you have to build strong foundations and games like this give you the confidence to know that you can come back when the score is down. We've been down about 20-0 in the Top 14 a couple of times early on this year and hoping we could come back, but this time we chipped away and showed what can happen if you believe in yourselves."

The recruitment of Contepomi from Touon has been important for Cheika's big plans for the French club - the two worked together at Leinster before - and he was happy to see him kicking so well at Sixways.

"Felipe is a class act and it is pretty clear what he brings to the team. We are lucky to have him and a few other guys who have come in this year," said Cheika. "It is important that we maintain our competitive mentality. Some times we have been guilty of one week 'yes' and another week 'no'.

"We will be back at our home at Stade Jean Bouin in March 2013. It is coming out of the ground quickly and it is going to be great when it is there. The new owners have been really great in supporting the team and getting things ready for that. The club, a bit at a time, is coming together nicely.

"I'm not going to say it is all plain sailing but you have to live the hard times to pick up the mentality of how good it feels to win. We have to prove ourselves domestically first. It's important to believe we can win and we can do that through the Top 14 before we can start to believe we can be competitive in Europe.

"That's still a way off, but little pieces are coming together and we will see where we end up. You have to turn dreams into reality and we want a special team here. A lot of people said Paris is the toughest nut to break, especially with the spiral that was going on at the club. It is about identifying what needs to be fixed and that's what we tried to do last year and now we are trying to fix it.

"There is no guarantee we are going to do it, but what we can guarantee is that we will put every bit of heart and soul into it because there are people around the club that deserve it. We will keep pushing."

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