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Dan McKellar questions Champions Cup format before Leicester’s Leinster date
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Dan McKellar questions Champions Cup format before Leicester’s Leinster date

The format of this season’s Champions Cup has been questioned by Leicester’s director of rugby, Dan McKellar, before his team’s last-16 trip to face Leinster in Dublin. The winners will face either the Stormers or La Rochelle in next week’s quarter-finals, both of whom played the Tigers in this season’s pool stage.

Leicester have also already faced a strong Leinster side packed with Six Nations-winning Irish internationals this season and McKellar would prefer fewer cases of deja vu in future. “Someone has not got something right when they were planning the competition,” said McKellar, still in his first season in charge at Leicester.

“I was driving in this morning and thinking: ‘We are going to France or South Africa next week to play the Stormers or La Rochelle. That sounds familiar’. Something is not right. That is the whole reason why you have pools so you have a bit of variety. But it is what it is. We have got to play Leinster this week in Dublin. They have earned the right to host it at home and we will go over there with the intent to create an upset because I don’t think a whole lot of people expect us to win.”

Given Leicester have not beaten the Irish province in the Champions Cup for 16 years it is hardly surprising Leinster are strong favourites to advance to the last eight, but McKellar insists his team will be tougher nuts to crack than some imagine. “They are a very good rugby side – basically an international quality team – but they have got two arms, two legs and a heartbeat and we will go over there with the intention to disrupt them.

“If you cast your mind back to the last game we played, not that long ago, it was 10-0 after 20 minutes, [Joe] McCarthy gets a try from a double movement or whatever you want to call it, we got harshly penalised and all of a sudden it is 10-10. We dominated for large periods of time … we will take a lot of confidence out of that.”

The former Wallabies forwards coach, consequently, is calling on Leicester fans to keep the faith this weekend. “If you look at the Tigers DNA when it is backs to the wall and there is not a whole load of expectation around, that is when this club thrives. I would say, stick with us. Have belief and understand days like Saturday are made for this club.”

Leinster’s provincial rivals Munster will head to Northampton this weekend without prop John Ryan who has been suspended for three games by a disciplinary committee for an illegal tackle against Cardiff last weekend. Glasgow’s fit-again Sione Tuipulotu, however, will make his first appearance for the Warriors since January when they meet Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop.

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Gloucester welcome back the Argentina hooker Santi Socino for their European Challenge Cup tie against Castres while Bath have confirmed their international wing Joe Cokanasiga has agreed to stay at the club for another three years. The 35-year-old ex-Wasps hooker Tom Cruse, now at Northampton, will retire at the end of the season.

Source: theguardian.com