No better time for Leicester Tigers to face Heineken Cup giants Toulouse
Leicester Tigers head coach Matt O'Connor says his side's tough start to the Heineken Cup at Toulouse may be the "best time" to play the French giants.
The four-time European champions will welcome Leicester to either the Stade Ernest Wallon or the much larger Stadium Municipal on Sunday, October 14.
Tigers will then welcome Welsh RaboDirect Pro12 champions Ospreys to Welford Road the following weekend, before a double-header against Italian outsiders Treviso in December.
Despite the size of the task facing a Tigers side who went out of the competition at the group stages last season, O'Connor thinks an early game against the reigning French Top 14 champions may not be so bad after all.
Cheap Van Insurance(Commercial & Private Use) - Contact Insure365...View details
Cheap Van Insurance(Commercial & Private Use) - Contact Insure365 01782 898188, Free Legal Expenses Cover Included at £25.00!
Terms: 1 Voucher Per Customer
Contact: 01782 898188
Valid until: Monday, June 24 2013
"They won the Top 14 but, at times, they were disappointing in the way they played," he said. "Toulouse are a little bit in transition and it's the best time to get them.
"If we go there and get something out of the game, it will set us up for the competition. It's good to get Toulouse out of the way first up."
The big-spending Frenchmen have been over-taken by Leinster in the last two years as top dogs on the continent, and O'Connor says there are a number of reasons to think Tigers can get something out of the trip across the Channel.
"We have a good run into that game with tough Aviva Premiership fixtures against Saracens and Harlequins beforehand, which will make us match-hardened for that game in France," said the Aussie.
"Toulouse have to be the marker on the back of their success in the competition over the years, but they have probably been overtaken by Leinster as the front-runner and best side in Europe.
"It's also helpful in regards to the Premiership not to have those first-versus-second pool matches back-to-back near Christmas, like we have had in recent years.
"It's probably more advantageous (playing Treviso in the middle rounds) than having the big games then. That has worked out well."
Despite those positives, by mid-October Leicester will still have to deal with a number of big names struggling to beat injuries that have kept them out of pre-season.
Ben Youngs (shoulder) and Tom Croft (neck) are unlikely to be available or have enough rugby in them to make the trip to the south of France.
And the likes of Louis Deacon and Jordan Crane will need some game-time under their belts after coming back from long-term injuries.
The visit of Ospreys the following week, on Sunday, October 21, will reignite a ferocious Heineken Cup rivalry that has produced some classic fixtures in the last few years.
Tigers have won three of those, drawn one and lost two, including the thrilling 32-32 draw at Welford Road in 2009.
Leicester will face Treviso having never lost to an Italian side in the history of the competition.