Bourgoin aim to go one better in Challenge Cup

Bourgoin went within touching distance of lifting the Amlin Challenge Cup last May – and former French international outside half Benjamin Boyet is adamant they intend to turn the disappointment of a year ago into delight this time.

The French club, the inaugural winners of the tournament in 1997, were denied the double when they went down 15-3 to Northampton Saints at the Twickenham Stoop.

Now they are set to face Connacht Rugby at the Galway Sportsground in the first of the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals knowing the winner will enjoy home advantage in the semi-finals three weeks later.

“We are thrilled to be going to Ireland for our Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final because it is such a breath of fresh air compared to our domestic league and, since we seem to be doing well in Europe more than on a national level, then there is a lot to be played for,” he said.

“Just like last year it is a competition in which we hope to go as far as possible – and even go one better than last year! That’s the plan anyway.

“We really want to do well and qualify for the semi-finals because the incentive is that we could potentially host the semi-final at Stade Pierre Rajon and we would love to again offer that to our fans. “We are most certainly aiming to make the final because it is such a great moment to experience.

Boyet is a loyal one-club player and has scored 305 points for Bourgoin in 49 appearances spread over 11 seasons in European club rugby’s two elite tournaments.

“Recently we lost to Toulon in the Top 14 but we could be facing them again in the Amlin Challenge Cup – should we both go through to the semis,” he said.

“That would be an interesting situation and, since we don’t approach our European games the same way as our domestic games, then who knows what could happen?

“If that were to be the case we would play them at home and the pressure on us would be different to a Top 14 scenario. Our fate wouldn’t depend on winning an Amlin Challenge Cup game but we take this seriously and any victory is good for the club records. At this stage we’ve reached our objective in Europe so anything after that is a real treat and bonus.

“I have found the level this year in the Amlin Challenge Cup is much higher and it’s been progressing that way for a while now.

“Apart from Connacht and us at Bourgoin, who are struggling in our own league, the other competing clubs are doing well in their championship. This goes to show how important this is.

“And there is a lot to take from this competition. Whatever positive experience our players get from playing high level international games can only benefit our game in the Top 14 so it’s a win-win situation as far as we are concerned.

“Despite the fact that we have four or five players in our squad who are injured long-term and who won’t even be able to finish the season, we have the resources to be competitive by presenting a full strength team to face our next opponents in Galway.

“We have never played them before so it’ll be interesting and travelling doesn’t give us any sort of complex so we can only prepare ourselves to the best of our abilities and remain focused on the rewards and enjoy the day.

“My best Amlin Challenge Cup memory is last season’s home win in the semis against Worcester and it would be great to add to that on Saturday.”

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