TOP BAR - Fixtures

Match Preview: Leicester Tigers v Stade Francais

Both sides have drawn blood already this season, but when Leicester Tigers and Stade Francais lock horns once again on Sunday, Brendon O’Connor insists the English side will land the knockout blow.

Richard Cockerill's side came out on top of their round one encounter, cruising to a 33-20 at Welford Road in which O’Connor crossed for a try, but after the Parisians returned the favour by winning 36-21 on home soil, this Champions Cup quarter-final is finely poised.

The sides finished first and second in Pool 4, but Leicester have since used their European form as a springboard to propel themselves into the Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top four.

And after seeing off Gloucester Rugby last time out – despite a first-half wobble that saw them ship 24 unanswered points – O’Connor is calling on his teammates to deliver the goods for 80 minutes this time around.

“Going into this week against Stade Francais, we know if we’re not on your game on the night then we’re going to lose, and you’re out of the competition to boot as it’s knockout rugby,” he said.

“A big shift is needed by the boys this weekend, but it’s really exciting for me too to be involved in it.

“I’ve only just come back from injury, and any game at Welford Road is a special occasion, but for it to be a European Cup quarter-final is amazing.

“We got a good win over Stade at Welford Road but then they beat us pretty well on their home ground, so it is bound to be a good game.

“For us, we have to make sure we switch on for 80 minutes. We didn’t do that against Gloucester, and certainly in recent weeks we’ve been guilty of letting teams back into games.

“We can’t have a period of ten or 15 minutes where we make errors against Stade because they will punish you. We have to keep the pressure on throughout.”

By contrast, while Leicester seem to be going from strength to strength in the Aviva Premiership, Stade appear to be on the slide – but their skipper Sergio Parisse insists they should not be written out of the European equation.

Stade were crowned Top 14 champions last season but have stuttered so far this term – currently sitting 12th in the league.

Leicester have won three of their last four matches against Stade in the Champions Cup, and have won four of five home matches against the Top 14 club.

Although with the Parisians seeking a first European title in their history, Parisse believes his teammates will have a renewed determination to topple Leicester.

He said: “I feel good because I think my teammates are full of enthusiasm despite the loss to La Rochelle last week.

“We've had a disappointing season, to be diplomatic. But we have to accept that, and not look for any excuses.

“We know that in three games we could create history at this club, which has never won a European title. We have all the energy we need to have a chance of winning this game.”

Watch England's finest at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final at Twickenham on 28 May from only £30 for adults & £15 for children. Click here for tickets

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