Montgomery confident ahead of Exiles clash
April 1, 2008
Percy Montgomery believes Perpignan have hit top form at just the right time - and that they can qualify for the Heineken Cup semi-finals for the third time in eight seasons when they clash with London Irish at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
And Montgomery, a 2007 World Cup winner and South Africa's leading international points scorer, is confident the French club can win on the road and make it 2-1 in their favour from this season's meetings with the Exiles.
London Irish topped Pool 1 ahead of Perpignan, courtesy of two more bonus points, but now it is sudden death with a semi-final place against either Toulouse or Cardiff Blues at stake for the winners of the weekend's opening quarter-final.
"I don't think the fact that we have already played each other twice this season will mean much on the day," said Montgomery, who kicked 12 of South Africa's points in their 15-6 World Cup final win over England in Paris last October.
"Because it's a quarter-final both teams will play as if it is an all-or-nothing final and everyone knows that anything can happen.
"It will be the team who makes the least mistakes who comes through the winners and I think we are capable of that. We certainly believe that we are able to win matches away from home and we are going to give it everything.
"I played in the second London Irish game and it was not the same as Top 14 matches.
"The tempo was a lot quicker than most Top 14 games we've played this season so it'll be hard work. I think that London Irish will try and speed it up a bit, they have a strong line-out so will try and get quick ball if they can.
"They have a strong and fast back line who can really threaten so our defence will be tested. We are expecting a fast, tough game and will be looking to give the same back in return."
Perpignan, the 2003 Heineken Cup finalists, made a stuttering start to the season and Montgomery had injury problems after the World Cup final but that is all history.
"Perpignan had a tough start to the season," he said. "We had a lot of players out through injury and the team didn't get the coach back until after the World Cup so it's taken a while to bed things in.
"Now we are starting to get the results we want and confidence is definitely building within the squad itself and the club as a whole. We have had several key players out for parts of the season and it was great in the Albi game to finally get nearly all of the first team players back on the pitch at the same time.
"The tough time at the start of the season though seems to have developed a great team spirit and, with that extra confidence, we are really starting to get some momentum going."
HEINEKEN CUP QUARTER-FINALS - (All kick-offs LOCAL times)
SATURDAY 5 APRIL
15.00 London Irish v Perpignan Madejski Stadium, Reading
17.30 Gloucester Rugby v Munster Kingsholm, Gloucester
SUNDAY 6 APRIL
12.30 Saracens v Ospreys Vicarage Road, Watford
16.00 Toulouse v Cardiff Blues Le Stadium, Toulouse
London Irish or Perpignan v Toulouse or Cardiff Blues
Saracens or Ospreys v Gloucester Rugby or Munster