Loffreda eyes Heineken Cup glory

New Leicester head coach Marcelo Loffreda insists winning the Heineken Cup is a realistic target in his first season in charge.

Leicester are twice European champions and they launch their bid for continental glory at Leinster on Saturday determined to make amends for defeat in last season’s final against Wasps.

Acting head coach Richard Cockerill will pick the team for the opening Pool 6 fixture that brings Loffreda face to face with Argentina star Felipe Contepomi.

He was part of the Pumas team which Loffreda led to bronze at the World Cup before the Argentinian coach relinquished a position he had held for more than seven years to take over at Leicester.

The 48-year-old predicts more glory for Tigers after last season’s Guinness Premiership and EDF Energy Cup double.

He said: “I’m honoured to be with maybe one of the best club teams in the world and the Heineken Cup is a realistic goal.

“The Heineken Cup is a very competitive tournament, but Leicester have great players and spirit.

“I know there’s an expectation that we win. That suits me because I’m competitive.

“Even when I’m playing with my kids, I want to win.”

Loffreda met the Leicester squad for the first time on Monday and said: “I will spend this week seeing how they work and might make a few suggestions.

“I would be disrespectful if I came in and straight away try to take over. I’m going to come in progressively.

“I have to rely on the staff here because they have done very good work. I will work with them and maybe one day in the future I will look for one advisor in one aspect of the game.”

Loffreda feels he will bring both fresh ideas and an ideology rooted in the sport’s amateur background.

He said: “We have to give the players different ideas. We have to be creative and innovative. If we don’t do that, they get bored.

“I know that’s a big challenge, but I’m used to that. I think I have the capacity to do that.

“The amateur way can show us the way as well. Rugby isn’t just about playing on the field. You have to be a good player off the field as well.

“We have to be focused on what we do off the field because that will be the basis for what we do on the field.

“I try to bind the players to work together.”

Loffreda was unveiled to the media on the same day Leicester chairman Peter Tom revealed the club are set to start work on their Welford Road ground that will increase the capacity to around 24,000 for the start of the 2009-10 season.

Loffreda does not envisage many changes to Leicester’s team or the back-room staff.

He ruled out an immediate move for Pumas utility back Juan Martin Hernandez, who is in dispute with Stade Francais.

Hernandez has 18 months remaining on his contract but Tom insisted no move has been made to buy him out of his current deal.

Loffreda said: “We have five or six players that play for England and that is the base of the team.”

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