How will the French fare in the Heineken Cup?

first_imgAhead of this weekend’s Heineken Cup quarter-finals, Rugby World runs the rule over the French contenders… Ready Freddie? Michalak has been making headlines recently with his performances at ten for Toulon LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Bright spark: Clermont’s Napolioni Nalaga will be looking to make breaks like this against LeicesterClermontLeicester head to Clermont on Saturday with the statistics stacked against them. Not only do the Heineken Cup record books show that in 68 quarter-final encounters 51 have been won by the home side, but the Tigers travel to the toughest venue in Europe. The last time Clermont lost at the Stade Marcel-Michelin was in November 2009 (to Biarritz in the Top 14), and since then the men in yellow and blue have compiled a 74-match winning streak.Admittedly Clermont suffered a surprise 26-24 defeat away at Brive last week, but they were without Julien Bonnaire, Alexandre Lapandry, Julien Bardy, Jamie Cudmore, Vincent Debaty and Sitiveni Sivivatu. All are available for selection on Saturday, and all are likely to help Clermont make it 75 games on the bounce at the Michelin.On the move: will Toulouse be able to hit the ground running at Thomond Park against Munster?ToulouseOf the three French teams left in the tournament, Toulouse face the toughest task in travelling to Munster. Lying sixth in the Top 14 with only 11 victories from 23 matches, the four-times champions will be firm underdogs ahead of Saturday’s clash at Thomond Park. “It’s a major challenge,” admitted Toulouse coach Guy Noves this week. “We know it’s going to be hard to get back up (from the defeat to Toulon) but we’re going to try to do it.”center_img No one club has dominated the Top 14 this season, with the three French teams in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals all showing themselves fallible. Then again, they’ve also played some superb rugby at times and their opponents on Saturday will have to be at their best if they’re to progress to the semi-finals…ToulonThe reigning champions welcome Leinster to the Stade Mayol on Sunday, a week after their dramatic 32-28 victory over Toulouse in Marseille. Star of that show was Frederic Michalak, the veteran fly-half scoring 27 points including the second of Toulon’s two tries.The previous week Michalak – for whom the word ‘mercurial’ could have been invented – looked lively against Clermont and he has no doubt why he’s hit form at this late stage of the season. “I’m in good shape. I no longer have any niggles,” he says. “That’s allowed me to be at 100% and to play without apprehension.”The fact he’s been given a run in the No 10 shirt – a position in which, he says, he “feels at ease” – is no coincidence after 18 months playing for Toulon mostly at scrum-half. Nonetheless, it’s expected that Jonny Wilkinson, absent from the Toulouse game with a thigh strain, will return to the starting XV for the visit of Leinster.Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal is rare among his peers in French rugby in attaching as much importance to the Heineken Cup as to the Top 14, and though he would love to do the double this season, he sees this quarter-final as an opportunity to make a statement.“We want to confirm that we’re not European champions by chance,” Boudjellal told a local paper this week. “That we’re capable of dominating European rugby. I’m not saying we’re there but we want to show that Toulon have the dimensions to become a European giant.” Hardly a full-throated battle cry from the veteran coach, who perhaps has prioritised the Top 14 over the Heineken Cup in the final weeks of the season. Toulouse are by no means certain to qualify as one of the purported seven French teams for Europe’s showpiece competition next season. Their total of 58 points is only three more than ninth-placed Brive and with only two wins in their last seven league matches Noves knows that the remaining three Top 14 encounters are all must-win games.As for the Munster match, Noves admits that “to win over there would be a huge, huge achievement…(and) if we lose in putting in a good performance it will allow us to say that the European Cup was not our priority.”last_img read more

Greggs raises £85k for We Love Manchester Emergency Fund

first_imgGreggs has raised £85,718 for the Manchester Evening News (MEN) We Love Manchester Emergency Fund through in-store collections.The donation, which is administered by the British Red Cross, will help support people who have been injured or bereaved by the Manchester Arena bombing in May.Greggs said that, with a number of its customers and colleagues living and working in Manchester, this was a campaign that was “very close to their hearts”.The baking industry has made several donations over the last few months to those affected by the Manchester attack. Warburtons raised £25,000 for the Together with Manchester Appeal, while Birds Bakery donated £10,000 to the British Red Cross Manchester fund.A spokesperson for the MEN We Love Manchester Emergency Fund described the generosity of Greggs’ customers as incredible.“We’ve been extremely touched by everyone’s efforts to raise money for the victims and those affected by the attack month,” said the spokesperson. “Thank you to everyone who helped raise the substantial amount for the M.E.N appeal.”last_img read more

U20 World Cup: Sellas happy with Accra camp despite player shortage

first_imgGhana U20 national team coach Sellas Tetteh believes the high level of competition in camp will help build a formidable team for the impending Fifa World Youth Championships.The Black Satellites are scheduled to leave Accra for New Zealand on Thursday to participate in a four-nation tournament ahead of the World Cup in the same country.Only 24 of the 35-man provisional squad have joined the team with the rest expected to join later in Auckland. “There is competition in camp and that should be a platform for us to show improvement, progression and development,” he told Joy Sports.“In a way we see it as a way of trying to build a very solid, formidable side that will represent the nation,” said the coach who is heading to a third World Cup at this level. “At the moment we working very hard and besides that we are enjoying ourselves, trying to know each other, be close to each other , integrate and get along with each other.” The Satellites played two friendly games at the Accra stadium on Tuesday. Their first game was against Westlanders FC which they won 1-0. Then they hammered Miracles FC 6-0.  Ghana, bronze winner in the last edition in 2013, is housed in Group B alongside Argentina, Panama and Austria in the World Cup which starts May 30.–last_img read more