Leicester ready for stern test against Stade Francais

French champions bring a huge threat as they travel to meet Tigers in Champions Cup

Leicester will face an immediate stern test of their European Champions Cup credentials when they kick off this season's tournament against French heavyweights Stade Francais tonight.

Tigers’ unbeaten start to the Aviva Premiership campaign ended with a 19-6 defeat at Exeter last weekend.

There has been little time to reflect on that loss, however, with the reigning French champions and Pool Four favourites now looming at Welford Road.

‘Big fixtures’

"Friday night under the lights at Welford Road, the Champions Cup, Leicester versus Stade Francais – these are the big fixtures that everyone wants to be involved in," Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill said. "It is going to be a big start for us, kicking the tournament off."


New Zealander Brendan O’Connor, fresh from completing his ITM Cup commitments with Hawke’s Bay, goes straight into the Leicester backrow alongside Tom Croft and Lachlan McCaffrey, while fullback Matthew Tait and centre Peter Betham return to action.

Elsewhere, Argentina prop Marcos Ayerza makes his first appearance since the World Cup, while new frontrow signing Matias Aguero is on bench duty after being recruited following injuries suffered by props Michele Rizzo and Logo Mulipola.

Stade, meanwhile, are captained by Italy Test captain Sergio Parisse, with South African Morne Steyn and former Tigers number nine Julien Dupuy forging their halfback combination.

Leicester lock Mike Fitzgerald added: “We know what we have to work on to match the likes of Stade Francais.

“We have really high standards as a team, and we want to win every single game.

“Realistically, that is not going to happen, but we have won three out of four and are at the top end of the league table, which is pretty good.

“Each week there are things to work on, but we have a new gameplan and new style, so we are always tweaking things. I think we are on the right track.”

European Champions Cup – Pool Four: Leicester Tigers v Stade Francais Welford Road, 7.45pm BT Sport, beIN/Sports

LEICESTER TIGERS: M Tait (c); A Thompstone, P Betham, M Smith, V Goneva; O Williams, B Youngs; M Ayerza, T Youngs, D Cole, M Williams, M Fitzgerald, T Croft, B O'Connor, Lachlan McCaffrey. Replacements: L Ghiraldini, M Aguero, F Balmain, D Barrow, J Crane, S Harrison, S Bai, T Veainu.

STADE FRANÇAIS: H Bonneval; J Arias, P Williams, H Meyer Bosman, J Sinzelle; M Steyn, J Dupuy; Z Taulafo, L Panis, A Oleon, P Gabrillagues, P Papé, P Sio, S Nicolas, S Parisse (c). Replacements: D Priso, Z Zhvania, R Slimani, A Flanquart, J Ross, J Tomas, W Vuidarvuwalu, J Raisuqe.