Leeds poised for final push
January 7, 2008
Stuart Hooper will lead Leeds Carnegie out against Dax in Round 5 of the European Challenge Cup on Friday night knowing that one more win will put them on the brink of quarter-final qualification.
This season's Guinness Premiership returnees go into the Headingley showdown two points clear of Castres Olympique with both an historic place in the last eight for the first time and possible quarter-final home advantage on the line.
With four of the five Pool winners earning home advantage, Leeds are level on 15 points with joint Pool 3 leaders Brive and Newcastle Falcons with bonus points looking crucial.
"It would be absolutely huge for the club to qualify for the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals," said Hooper.
"There is nothing much more exciting and fun for both the players and fans to be involved in knock-out football and to reach a European quarter-final would be fantastic for the club.
"When we beat them 23-20 out in Dax in Round 2 in was a great and really hard earned win for us as they put us under a lot of pressure and certainly played with a 'never say die attitude.'
"With the situation we are in the Premiership it is vital to build up momentum and we are most certainly not looking beyond the Dax match regarding the quarter-finals.
"First and foremost we know we must beat Dax because we then face a huge challenge out in Castres as they will be out for revenge following our win over them at Headingley earlier in the tournament.
"I guess it is fair to say that Dax are in a fairly similar situation to ourselves. They have also just returned to their domestic top flight and looking for wins to boost confidence.
"And from our previous match we know that their forwards are their main strength, they took the ball forward well and also had a good scrum.
"However, they also showed they have some dangerous runners behind the pack and they threw the ball about all over the place.
"As the away team on Friday we expect them to be prepared to go for broke and be really up for going all out for a win.
"As far as we are concerned overall this season, it is clear we are getting better all the time. It would be a lot more frustrating if we were training so hard and the players and coaches were all putting the hours in and there was no sign of improvements but that is far from the case.
"We know that if we keep putting the effort in we will get there and now we have the incentive of a European quarter-final to aim for."
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP - (All kick-offs LOCAL time)
FRIDAY 11 JANUARY, 2008
SATURDAY 12 JANUARY, 2008
SUNDAY 13 JANUARY, 2008