Tito: Millennium factor not in play
28th April 2009, 11:24 am By Principality Stadium
Cardiff Blues captain Paul Tito says the Millennium Stadium factor will favour neither side in their Heineken Cup semi-final clash with Leicester Tigers on Sunday – despite the capital region’s recent successes over Gloucester and previous champions Toulouse at Wales national ground.
The Tigers go into the big Anglo-Welsh showdown looking for a hat-trick of tournament wins over the Blues, coming out on top in both Pool matches in 2006/07 – including the Round 2 tie also played at the Millennium Stadium.
And the English champions know the stadium well from that 21-17 victory along with their victorious 2002 final against Munster, even though the Blues have more recent success at the magnificent home of Welsh rugby.
The Welsh outfit are on a roll with silverware already in their trophy cabinet in the form of the EDF Energy Cup after beating Gloucester Rugby for a second time, but Tito believes history, however recent, will bear no influence when the whistle goes on Sunday.
“We have had a couple of good wins there but that will count for nothing on Sunday,” said Tito. “We earned the right to play there against Toulouse in the quarter-finals and, while this time it was strictly the luck of the draw, we sincerely hope our fans will really get behind us again and turn out in force.
“I am sure all those who were there for the Toulouse game, and those who travelled to Twickenham for the EDF Energy final, will be there once more and it would be tremendous if we could have a crowd over 50,000.”
The Tigers warmed up with a 73-3 mauling of Bristol at the weekend while in the wake of their Twickenham exploits the Blues took the opportunity to rest their front line troops but still took the points against Ulster Rugby at Ravenhill to keep the feel good factor going.
“It was nice to get that first trophy as there has been a lot of hard work done by the Blues since regional rugby started and, while it might have taken a bit longer than some people thought or wanted for success to be achieved, it is good to get the monkey off our backs.
“I have only been here two years but I know there have been some tough times and a fair bit of criticism over the years so it was good to see them sticking with the core of the squad and winning some deserved silverware.
“It means we go into the semi-final with a lot of confidence but we know we will be up against a very good Leicester side who will also approach the match confidently.
“Leicester have not got many weaknesses and have experienced players all over the park – particularly in the front row and at lock – and overall are a sound unit – so we will do our homework and come up with a game plan for the semi-final.”
And, while the seven Heineken Cup and five EDF wins add up to an impressive record of 12 straight knock-outs this season, it is just another statistic New Zealand-born Tito is quick to play down.
“The 12 from 12 is a nice record but it won’t amount to much because we know that without another big performance we are 80 minutes from going out of the tournament,” he said.
“We also accept that the Toulouse game was a serious struggle – a head-on collision with their big fellows left us needing to dig in deep and play for each other – and although we had more joy against Gloucester and got our game together much better this semi-final is absolutely huge for everyone at the Blues.”
Tickets are available by clicking the following link: http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Heineken-Cup-Semi-Final-Cardiff-Blues-V-Leicester-Tigers-tickets/artist/990028