Tigers v Edinburgh - teams and predictions
FRIDAY PREVIEW: Leicester Tigers will be hoping for a return to winning ways in front of their home fans when they host Edinburgh in the Champions Cup Round of 16 on Friday.
The English club suffered their first defeat of this year’s competition in their final pool match, losing 26-27 at home to Ospreys.
The defeat meant Leicester finished fourth in Pool B and now face a difficult tie against a strong Edinburgh side.
After losing their opening game of this year’s competition at Saracens, the Scottish side won their remaining three fixtures to qualify in fifth from Pool A.
In their two previous meetings in the tournament, back in the 2007/08 pool stage, they each won their home game.
Richard Wigglesworth says the magnitude of Friday’s European knockout fixture is not lost on him and his Leicester Tigers squad.
A multiple Champions Cup winner in his playing days, Wigglesworth is aware of the standing the competition has in the global game.
“It is the best club competition in the world with the biggest clubs in the world taking part,” said the Tigers coach.
“That isn’t lost on us, we know how important this game is and are excited for Friday night at home with our fans.”
While the competition changes, Wigglesworth was also quick to point out it doesn’t mean that the way in which preparation is conducted in Leicester changes.
“We want to win the next game, no matter the competition or opponent,” he said.
“All of our preparation is built around how we get better and how we give ourselves the best opportunity to win on the weekend.
“That doesn’t change this week because it’s a knockout game. All that changes is that there is no next game to win in the competition if we lose.
“We don’t change how we prepare based on a competition, but we definitely know what the result means and why it is different.”
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Edinburgh come to Welford Road for just the second time in their history on Friday evening, after last meeting in 2007, and Wigglesworth is aware of the quality coming down from Scotland.
“We are coming up against what is basically an international team, with about 20 Test players in the side for Friday night, and know it will be big challenge,” Wigglesworth said.
“They have shown great form in Europe this season and we saw what they did to Saracens; Edinburgh are a quality outfit.
“They have nothing else to play for this season and so we know how big this for them, as they’ve said, but it’s huge for us as well.
“It’s a knockout European fixture, at Welford Road, and so – like every week we get the chance to go out and represent Leicester Tigers, we’ll be giving it our everything.”
As a player and now coach, Wigglesworth has enjoyed some “special memories” in a Leicester Tigers shirt during the club’s recent run in Europe.
Handre Pollard was the top points-scorer in the last round of matches with 16 with Lyon’s Leo Berdeu.
Harry Simmons made four clean breaks in Round 4 – as many as any other player.
The Tigers have made the most box kicks in the tournament with 56.
Pierre Schoeman made more carries than everybody except Zach Mercer (Montpellier Hérault Rugby) in the Round 4 match against Saracens. His total of 21 was the most of any tight-five player in a single match this season.
Viliame Mata made the most contact metres in the last round of matches with 37. Mata has also made the most dominant carry contacts in the competition (25).
Edinburgh’s rate of carry dominance (32 percent) is the highest in the tournament.
@rugby365com: Leicester Tigers by nine points
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Harry Potter, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Olly Cracknell, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Cameron Henderson, 4 George Martin, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Tom West, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Sam Wolstenholme, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Dan Kelly.
Edinburgh: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 James Lang, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Cameron Hutchison, 23 Damien Hoyland.
Date: Friday, March 31
Venue: Welford Road, Leicester
Kick-off: 20.00 (20.00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Jonathan Gasnier (France)
TMO: Thomas Charabas (France)
* Sources: @LeicesterTigers & @ChampionsCup