Perpignan wary of Northampton’s physicality

Perpignan are the only Heineken Cup 2011 semi-finalist not to go all the way and lift European club rugby’s most coveted trophy – and joint captain Nicolas Mas accepts that Northampton Saints present a formidable challenge in their stadium:mk Sunday showdown in Milton Keynes.

Perpignan have played in a tournament final, beaten 22-17 by Toulouse in Dublin in 2003, and this is only their third time in the last four from their 10 seasons of Heineken Cup participation.

“The Heineken Cup semi-final promises to be a really tough game – especially as the Saints are hosting it in this new venue,” said the French international prop.

“Their team has done brilliantly in the tournament this season, winning all seven of their matches.”

“It will be a big challenge for us to go and play there but we will go there armed with a huge appetite and strong ambitions because we want to do well and you don’t get involved in matches like this every day.

“Our progression in the Heineken Cup this season is much better than in previous years so that in itself is most satisfactory for the club.

“First we qualified for the knock-out stages – which is a considerable achievement – and now we are about to play for our ticket for the final.

“That is why we are highly motivated to play the semi-final. We won’t let go and a couple more steps and we are there.

“Just like ourselves, Northampton Saints are a very physical outfit, especially up front with their captain Dylan Hartley and other internationals in their powerful pack.

“Then they have other English aces in the backs like Ben Foden and Chris Ashton so we are in for a really tough contest.”

Perpignan took their quarter-final to Barcelona and their 29-25 Olympic Stadium win over Toulon ensured their debut tournament match across the border was a major success.
They had a quick fire rematch with Toulon in the Top 14 last weekend with the Round 25 match at Stade Felix-Mayol ending in a 43-12 home win.

“The quarter-final in Barcelona was something that we had been waiting to do for such a long time,” he said.

“That meant we had a lot of pressure on our shoulders, so to come out as the winners was such an achievement and a delight for the players, coaches, club and the fans.
“Anything can happen now in the Heineken Cup and we will do our utmost to go all the way and have no regrets.

“If we can manage to qualify for the final by beating Northampton Saints I would quite fancy Toulouse to win their semi-final against Leinster so we can have an all-French final at the Millennium Stadium next month.

“However, there is still a lot of hard work to be done before then.”

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