Heineken Cup: Clermont v Leicester preview
Last Updated: 05/04/14 7:39am
Leicester must break Clermont's 74-match unbeaten run at the Stade Marcel Michelin on Saturday if they are to reach the Heineken Cup semi-finals.
It's been five years since Vern Cotter's Clermont have lost on home soil, giving the French giants an aura of invincibility, but Tigers captain Ed Slater remains confident the visitors can produce a special result on their travels.
"Everybody's been talking about their record and how long it's been going for," he admitted. "The players are aware of it.
"It's the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup. That's the biggest incentive - you can't get too wrapped up in that home record.
"I wouldn't say we've got nothing to lose going over there and there's no pressure. We have everything to play for."
The Tigers are unbeaten in their last seven outings on the domestic front and remain well-poised to seal an Aviva Premiership play-off spot.
Although impregnable at home, Clermont have suffered three defeats in their last five outings in the French Top 14, albeit away form will count for little on Saturday.
Cockerill's defensive ranks will be thoroughly tested by one of the most potent back-lines in European rugby, with Wesley Fofana and Naipolioni Nalaga providing devastating power for the hosts.
Leicester are not without their own strike-force, however. Manu Tuilagi is back with a bang, and he will target Fofana and Brock James with ball in hand, while Fijian flyer Niki Goneva is set for a fierce battle against countryman Nalaga.
French rugby's unwritten rule of teams not losing at home is proven by the fact only eight points separate those occupying first and eighth place in the Top 14, while the same gap is bridged by 36 points in the Premiership.
Mathew Tait and Blaine Scully come into the Leicester backline as Cockerill makes two changes to the side that beat Northampton Saints.
Full-back Tait was a late withdrawal from the team at Franklin's Gardens while winger Scully returns after playing his part in USA's play-off victory over Uruguay, securing their qualification for the Rugby World Cup.
Slater captains the club in Europe for the first time in an unchanged pack, lining up at lock alongside Louis Deacon who makes his 68th appearance in the Heineken Cup.
There is just one injury for Clermont coach Cotter to contend with - winger Sitiveni Sivivatu is ruled out through injury. Noa Nakaitaci starts on the left flank in his place.
Clermont: 15 Buttin; 14 Nakaitaci, 13 Rougerie (capt), 12 Fofana, 11 Nalaga; 10 James, 9 Parra; 1 Domingo, 2 Kayser, 3 Zirakashvili, 4 Cudmore, 5 Hines, 6. Bonnaire, 7 Chouly, 8 Lee.
Replacements: 16 Paulo, 17 Debaty, 18 Ric, 19 Pierre, 20 Lapandry, 21 Lacrampe, 22 Delany, 23 Stanley.
Leicester: 15 Tait; 14 Scully, 13 Tuilagi, 12 Allen, 11 Goneva; 10 Williams, 9 B Youngs; 1 Ayerza, 2 T Youngs, 3 Mulipola, 4 Deacon, 5 Slater (capt), 6 Gibson, 7 Salvi, 8 Crane.
Replacements: 16 Hawkins, 17 Stankovich, 18 Balmain, 19 Kitchener, 20 Waldrom, 21 Mele, 22 Flood, 23 Hamilton.
Watch Clermont Auvergne v Leicester Tigers live on Sky Sports 2 from 3.45pm on Saturday
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