European Champions Cup Betting: Time for Tigers to match the Foxes

Power play - Manu Tuiligai is back to full fitness
Power play - Manu Tuiligai is back to full fitness

Leicester are celebrating qualifying for Europe - Ralph Ellis reminds us that the city's rugby team are not only already there but are in a semi-final this weekend...

"Leicester offer value at 5.95/1 to go on and win the competition. They have already beaten 2.6613/8 favourites Saracens this season and are getting stronger as the campaign goes on."

Riyad Mahrez has admitted that when he was first asked about whether he fancied joining Leicester, he thought it was a rugby club. Nobody could make the same mistake now.

Alright, maybe Arsene Wenger might still believe it, as a result of Robert Huth's pulling and grabbing at set pieces. But beyond that the world now knows that Leicester City are on the brink of a historic Premier League title. And as for the rugby club - well they are close to a bit of history too, not that anybody seems to have noticed.

It's a sign of how the sporting balance has spun off its normal axis in the East Midlands city that Richard Cockerill could on Sunday guide Leicester Tigers to their first European Cup final in seven years, but will still be playing second fiddle to Claudio Ranieri.

An hour before the Premier League's worldwide audience watches the Foxes kick off at home to Swansea, the Tigers face top French side Racing 92. They are as near home as European Rugby rules allow, with a trip to a "neutral" venue just 28 miles up the A46 to play in Nottingham at The City Ground (although the website for BT Sport, who will be covering the match, still says it is at Welford Road!).

The French side, brilliantly organised by Dan Carter, start as favourites but there are reasons for thinking that Tigers are well worth backing at 2.35/4.

First, if anybody knows how to Get Carter, it is Leicester's attacking coach Aaron Mauger who played alongside the brilliant All Blacks fly-half with both club and country. He has a plan to work on denying time and space to make the 34-year-old rush his decisions.

Then Leicester have the boost that their own wrecking ball Manu Tuilagi is close to full fitness after working his way back from 15 months out with groin injuries. He proved his return to form with a moment of inspiration that set up the winning try for Freddie Burns in last week's win over Northampton which all but guaranteed the Tigers a place in the end of season Premiership play-offs.

Mauger has made a significant change in the way Leicester approach the game. A side always famed for the power of their pack have been encouraged to keep the ball alive more, something that Tuilagi appreciates and that could give Racing 92, for all their big budget stars, a surprise.

In fact Leicester offer value at 5.95/1 to go on and win the competition. They have already beaten 2.6613/8 favourites Saracens this season and are getting stronger as the campaign goes on.

Where once Leicester's footballers might have been encouraged to match the trophy winning daring of the great rugby teams, now the inspiration is running the other way. "It would be nice to make our own bit of noise" says Cockerill.

The next time the football team try to recruit a player from France, as they did with Mahrez, there won't be any confusion about which sport they play. The challenge is for Cockerill to remind everybody that Leicester does still have a rugby club too.

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