Nallet eyes European glory

Castres and France second row Lionel Nallet has confessed his side will take on Leeds in the European Challenge Cup not totally knowing what to expect from the Yorkshire side.

The two sides clash on Friday in their opening games of this year’s tournament, and Castres are aiming for glory and qualification for next years Heineken Cup, a tournament they are familiar with.

With Leeds having spent last season in division one, gaining promotion back to the Guinness Premiership, Castres have limited footage of their opponents, and subsequently are a little in the dark as to what they can expect.

“The first aim is to qualify for the next stages and then try to win the European Challenge Cup as there is a ticket into next season’s Heineken Cup for the winner,” Nallet said.

“Castres always tend to perform rather well in the European competitions and it is true that the Challenge Cup makes us go out of our French championship and allows us to meet foreign teams, which is very beneficial for us and our rugby.

“There is an interesting mix of levels and styles in this tournament and we can learn a lot from that.

“But, to be perfectly honest, we haven’t had much time to study the teams we are going to face in the Challenge Cup because we have only just started the Top 14. However, we are going to follow and observe them throughout the tournament and use video footage a lot, the same way they will do before facing us.

“Although it is the first time we will have played Leeds, and as a consequence we have no real element of comparison on which we can build our game, we are going to work on that in the next few days to be ready for that first fixture.”

Despite this Nallet insisted that for the game against Leeds they will focus on the style of rugby they play in the Top 14 and then look to develop their game throughout the tournament.

“In our preparations we will focus on our forwards’ game as this is what we use most in the championship,” he said.

“We will base our game on what we do best because we do not have time to readjust our rugby for the Challenge Cup. We will stick to the basics until we have the time to adapt our game to individual matches and type of tournament.

“We also have Dax and Calvisano in our Pool and that means we will play Dax four times this season in the Challenge Cup and the French championship. Dax are an improving club but, providing we remain serious about our performances in the competition and careful not to be complacent, we stand a chance to qualify for the later stages.”

With the ultimate goal being to win the Challenge Cup Nallet afforded himself the luxury of looking forward to the latter stages of the competition, providing his side can make it that far.

“In the tournament in general, Bath are experienced in European competitions and are a good side,” he added.

“I know Sale Sharks better for having played against them several times, not to mention that I know some of the players like Chabal and Bruno and that the club has recruited well so they are definitely a team to watch.

“With the World Cup only just over I must admit it is hard getting back into the club’s habits and learning the general game plan, line-out calls and other tactics again that are specific to the team so there is still a lot of work to do.

“But you’ve got to get used to being back with your club and with other team-mates again not to mention the fact that you’ve got to get back into the real life after experiencing something as big as the World Cup. It certainly tests your social skills switching back to another environment so rapidly.

“All the players are glad All Blacks prop Kees Meeuws is back as he made a good impression when he played for the club before so it is a very positive thing for us all to have such a key player here.”


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