Bristol ready for tough French trip, insists Hill

RICHARD HILL believes his Bristol team will encounter “a different animal” when they target an unlikely Heineken Cup double against French champions Stade Francais tonight.

Bristol head to Paris as Pool Three leaders, knowing that victories over remaining opponents Stade and Cardiff Blues would clinch a quarter-final place.

With just three points separating the three clubs, Bristol, realistically, cannot afford to return home empty-handed.

They beat Stade 17-0 at the Memorial Stadium in November, but their opponents’ home record suggests mission improbable for Bristol.

Head coach Hill said: “With our away record, and Stade’s home record, you would put a lot of money on Stade!

“However, confidence is growing in our squad, and at this stage I don’t think they are daunted.

“The French are a different proposition at home. They don’t travel well, but they’re a different animal at home.”

Stade will be without fly-half star Juan Martin Hernandez due to a knee injury, and his planned deputy David Skrela faces a late fitness test, so Lionel Beauxis is on stand-by.

Cardiff entertain struggling Harlequins tonight, totally in control of their own destiny.

A win against Quins, followed by toppling Bristol away on Sunday week, would knock the west country club and Stade out of contention.

But Blues head coach David Young warned: “If it is a slow, set piece-orientated game, which they will set out to do, it could cause us problems.

“There is no pressure on them now, and their focus will be to come down here and spoil it for us.

“We have compiled a squad which is very competitive, and I think we’ve shocked a few people.”

“It’s not an easy path and we still have a lot to do, but we feel we are capable of doing it.”

England World Cup players Nick Easter and Andy Gomarsall are absent from a Quins line-up showing seven changes after last weekend’s 42-13 Premiership pummelling by Leicester.

Stade Français: I Corleto; J Arias, S Glas, M Bastareaud, C Dominici (capt); D Skrela, A Albouy; D Attoub, D Szarzewski, R Roncero, J Du Plooy, P Pape, P Rabadan, R Martin, S Parisse.

Bristol: L Arscott; T Arscott, R Higgitt, N Brew, D Lemi; J Strange, B O'Riordan; D Crompton, M Regan, J Hobson, R Winters, S Hohneck, M Salter (capt), J El Abd, A Blowers.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

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