This weekend is very important in the Heineken Cup season, and it has been given extra significance with the news that New Zealand’s Dan Carter will make his Perpignan debut against Leicester at Aimé-Giral.
Fresh from scoring 17 points against England at Twickenham at the end of November, Carter – who has signed a seven month contract with the French Club – only trained with his new team for the first time on Monday.
However, this isn’t going to stop him from starting against Leicester this Sunday as Perpignan’s club President confirmed. Paul Goze has said that his team are ‘going all out to beat Leicester’ and that this means Carter has to start to have as much impact on the result of possible.
With only three pool matches left, the chances of Perpignan topping their group are quite slim, but they will know that three wins out of three in their remaining games gives them a chance. As Goze says, they are not ‘masters of their own destiny’ anymore, but they must do all they can.
Considering that one of the main reasons Carter joined Perpignan was to play in the Heineken Cup, it may disappoint him that his new team find themselves with only one win from three games upon his arrival. Therefore, it could be only three matches in this year’s competition for the New Zealand man.
With this in mind, perhaps he will set his sights on winning the French Top 14 instead as he will surely want some silverware to show for his time in France. This is something that Perpignan do have a chance of doing – they sit four points behind leaders Toulouse in third place and the ‘Carter factor’ could be just enough to close this gap.
As for the game this weekend, Carter and his Perpignan team come up against a Leicester side that sit top of Pool 3 in the Heineken Cup after three wins from three games. A narrow victory over Ospreys was followed by a 60-16 thrashing of Treviso. Then, last weekend, they brushed aside this weekend’s opponent Perpignan at Welford Road.
In terms of the rugby odds for this week’s reverse fixture, Carter’s debut and home advantage is enough to make the French side favourites. They are placed on Betfair’s rugby betting at 1.47 (40/85) and Leicester are the outsiders at 1.88 (10/11).
There is no doubt it is going to be an interesting contest with both sides going for the win. The home crowd will be excited about their new star taking his bow and this, along with the fact that they know their team must win should make for a cracking atmosphere.