Leeds Carnegie launched their Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 4 bid with a 23-9 opening round win at Bucharest Oaks – now they face the star-studded Stade Français Paris side under the Headingly Carnegie floodlights on Sunday night with Andy Key, the Director of Rugby, relishing the chance to take on one of Europe’s top clubs.
The French capital city club – Heineken Cup finalists in 2001 and 2005 – opened their account with a nine-try victory against Crociati Rugby and have given every indication they are targeting the silverware.
“Naturally we are all very excited about this game,” said Key. “No matter who you are you want to test yourself against the very best and Stade are unquestionably – and regularly – one of the best sides in Europe.
“They are a club steeped in history and have a squad full of quality players with plenty of experience of playing at the highest level.
“Stade Francais would have been massively disappointed not to be in this season’s Heineken Cup tournament after just missing out on qualification from the Top 14.
“However, the way they are playing and selecting in both the Amlin Challenge Cup and Top 14 competitions indicate they really mean business.
“They have got a lot of experience in all areas. They have a good strong defence – they don’t miss many tackles – and a genuinely great backline.
“What is more they will run it from anywhere. It does not matter where they are on the field and we will have to be on our mettle and at our very best when defending.
“However, I think we showed against London Irish that we can also score tries and hopefully we will be able to ask them some questions.
“We are starting to put together a game plan and style that suits our players and is a balance between winning, entertaining and enjoying it.
“Sunday is a great time for us to see just where we are in relation to a team like Stade and take the opportunity of the development of our squad.
“It will also be the chance for meeting some old friends like our former player Tom Palmer who is now playing for Stade.
“I am sure he will get a great welcome and, although he left before Neil and I arrived, I have only heard good reports about him and he certainly appears to be an integral part of the set-up at Stade Francais right now.
“With a side like Stade and the players they will bring to our ground hopefully we get a big crowd behind us – which is, after all, the whole essence of playing rugby at highest level.
“For our part we want to put on the sort of performance that will make the people of Yorkshire proud in Leeds Carnegie.
“Against Bucharest Oaks we found out, yet again, that they wear their hearts on their sleeves and that made for a tough first half in particular.
“It was definitely important to kick-off with a win on the back of five very tough Premiership matches and I was really pleased with the way we managed that, used our squad well and our ability to play for the 80 minutes because if you are not careful you can succumb to their early pressure.”