Tigers record under threat

Leicester will put their 21-month unbeaten home record on the line on Sunday when they tackle European champions Munster at Welford Road. [more]

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Leicester will put their 21-month unbeaten home record on the line on Sunday when they tackle European champions Munster at Welford Road.

But there is a quiet confidence in the Tigers camp about a Pool Four clash which could make or break their Heineken Cup quarter-final ambitions.

Leicester have not lost at home since Heineken Cup opponents Biarritz toppled them in January last year, yet a star-studded Munster side pose an immense threat as they prepare to launch their title defence.

"Munster are very good technically," said Tigers boss Pat Howard. "You don’t win the Heineken Cup, or remain so consistent in it over a number of years, without having that about you.

"We are all expecting a tough battle, but more importantly, the whole squad is looking forward to it."

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Howard has sprung a couple of selection surprises, fielding England wing Tom Varndell for his first start since a loan spell at National League One club Bedford, while former Munster fly-half Paul Burke has won the vote above Andy Goode.

"Tom, at his best, offers good finishing power, while Paul Burke has had three solid games for us," added Howard.

"The competition is very tough at number 10, but he has won through for this game."
Munster, hoping to emulate Leicester in becoming only the second team to win back-to-back European crowns, parade most of their familiar faces.

Lions lock Paul O’Connell captains a side containing numerous survivors from last season’s Heineken Cup final triumph against Biarritz in Cardiff, including Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer, Donnacha O’Callaghan and Anthony Foley.

Wasps, the 2004 European champions, face Pool One opponents Castres at Adams Park, hoping to make amends for group stage exits during the last two seasons.

Northampton, minus suspended playmaker Carlos Spencer, visit Biarritz in Pool Six, although they have been reinforced by England hooker Steve Thompson’s return from injury.

"People always say the French at home are a different animal to when they are away," said Thompson.

"We will need to fight fire with fire and not allow ourselves to respect them too much."

In the second-tier European Challenge Cup, Saracens will be favourites to make a winning start against Glasgow at Vicarage Road, with former Great Britain rugby league captain Andy Farrell set for a tournament debut.

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