LEICESTER head coach Richard Cockerill is unconcerned about his side being underdogs for Sunday’s Heineken Cup semi-final with Cardiff Blues at the Millennium Stadium.
And the former England hooker has hinted the Tigers may adopt a physical approach to try to blunt the threat of the Blues, who hammered Gloucester 50-12 in the recent EDF Energy Cup final.
Six Cardiff players have been named in the Lions squad for their summer tour of South Africa but Cockerill believes his own players are worthy of respect after finishing top of the Guinness Premiership and facing another semi-final in that competition against Bath six days after tackling Cardiff.
He said: “Cardiff have got all the Lions players and they are in the best form of their lives. I’m all right with that (being underdogs).
“But in our team meetings and in our dressing room, we are not underdogs. We will just deal with what we have to deal with.”
Cockerill added: “We’ve watched all their stuff on DVD. They are a very good side. You let them play and you let them do what they want to do and they are a very good side.
“But the teams who have taken them to task and physically fronted up have made them work very hard for their wins. That maybe is an approach we will take. They are very physical. They are a very good team but so are we. We don’t drop off tackles, we don’t concede many tries. We will make them work for everything they get, as I am sure they will do to us.
“I am sure it will be a very good game and I am a little bit reluctant to accept it will be one-way traffic.”
Centre Aaron Mauger is set to return after injury to face Cardiff although Sam Vesty has been in excellent form.
There has been some speculation that, if Mauger plays, Vesty will switch to fly-half at the expense of England’s Toby Flood.
Cockerill said: “Aaron is fit and there is every chance he will be involved. But Sam has come in and done a superb job. I have to decide what is best for the start of the game.”
Cockerill confirmed that former England skipper Martin Corry will not be in the starting XV despite being available after suspension and injury.
He said: “The other guys have done enough to keep their places and Martin was banned for six weeks, came back and was then injured. He has not had enough games to get in.”
Cockerill is pleased to have a large squad to choose from with players returning from being on the sidelines.
He said: “The injuries had been a hindrance earlier in the year but I think it has helped us now because we are getting guys back who haven’t played for a while.
“Lewis Moody played for the first time in 13 weeks at the weekend against Bristol, did the full 80 minutes and performed very well.
“Having Julian White back in the mix has been fantastic, Ben Kay has been injured for several weeks and is back in the mix so those type of guys give you lots of impetus. We also have Marco Wentzel coming back in. I am very happy with having selection problems. The guys who are playing the best will play.”
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