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Howard shares in fans' excitement

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A European quarter-final clash between the biggest club in England and the top side in France is just the kind of occasion to raise the roof off Welford Road. And it is not just the supporters in a capacity crowd who are getting excited.

Head coach Pat Howard, a Heineken Cup winner as a Tigers player in 2001, cannot wait to pit his wits against visitors Stade Francais at Welford Road, with a semi-final against Llanelli Scarlets waiting for the victors.

Howard said: "The Heineken Cup is a best-of-the-best competition. I enjoyed playing in it and I enjoy coaching in it. It is a great challenge.
Look at the teams left in this competition and it is exactly as it should be - they are all very good teams. It would be a very brave man to put a bet on any of them.

"You want to play against the best teams. Stade are a top team across the park. They have speed across the backs, good finishers, good forwards and a good lineout with a lot of options. We highly respect them and know we will have to play very, very well on Sunday.

"They have an impressive squad with a massive amount of depth and international players all over the place. But we have a good squad too and we are all looking forward to it."

Tigers qualified for the last eight after home-and-away wins over pool rivals Bourgoin and Cardiff Blues, plus an historic away win over defending champions Munster after losing the opening game in the group on home soil.

"As you get higher and higher, it obviously gets tougher and tougher," said Howard. "We came through a tough group, but that does not guarantee you anything now that we are into the knockout stages. It will come down to who turns up on the day with the most commitment, enthusiasm and freshness."