WHILE the Hilton Park backroom staff have been polishing up on the entente cordiale coach Ian Lucas has been studiously preparing his young side for their tricky French test.

And Leigh couldn't have wished for a tougher game than against the French Cup winners St Esteve in tomorrow's Regal Trophy first round clash at Hilton Park, kick off 6pm.

Tough and talented, the French are notoriously unpredictable. Flash and fluent some of the time; ill-disciplined and over-physical the rest of the time.

Lucas is warning his youngsters: "Expect the best and worst of the French tomorrow."

"I played against the French at all levels and every game against them are always the same; full of emotion and aggression and always at the point of boiling over," he says.

"They are a temperamental lot and play on a short fuse. They'll try to sort us out early on, I'm sure of that. It's vital for us to match their aggression, especially in the first 20 minutes. But we must, and I stress must, keep our discipline."

"On the other hand the French being the French are extremely talented with the ball in their hands. We can't afford to let them dictate play and let them run at us."

St Esteve are undoubtedly one of France's leading sides, winning the Lord Derby Trophy (an equivalent of the Challenge Cup), this season and being narrowly beaten in the championship play-off final.

Last season they pulled off a sensational 16-14 win at Hunslet at the same stage of the competition before gamely going down 36-6 at Bradford in the next round.

Leigh have allowed Salford to extend Paul Daniel's loan period for a second month and allowed goal-kicking winger Sean Fanning to join Highfield on loan.

Leigh's preparation for tomorrow's game began on the way back from York on Wednesday where they had won to go top of the table.

The players watched video of St Esteve's win over Hunslet. "They look a very physical side and we musn't underestimated them," says Leigh's managing director Mick Higgins.

They are a talented and youthful side with several internationals named in the St Esteve line-up for Hilton Park.

Jean-Marc Garcia, Pierre Chamorin and Eric Van Brussel are full internationals while scrum-half Bruno Verges, prop Stephane Chamorin and sub Frederic Sana are Under 21 representatives. Hooker Todd Brown is former captain of the Australian Schooboys. Wingers Garcia and Brussel and the talented Chamorin, the elder of the St Esteve brothers, are all likely to figure in the French squad for next month's World Cup.

The French, in much the same way as Leigh, depend on local talent and tip former junior internationals Mathew Khedimi, Bernard Cartier and Sebastian Berdu as players with big futures.

But Leigh will be saving a special 'bonjour' for local lad Alex Cain who is in the St Esteve squad of 17.

Cain, the former Leigh Miners and BARLA youth international, is guesting in France after being given time off by his professional club Sheffield Eagles.

The St Esteve line-up is: Pierre Chamorin, Jean Marc-Garcia, Frary Martial, Laurent Nicolas, Eric Van Brussel; Arnand Cervello, Bruno Verges; Rachal Zenon, Todd Brown, Stephane Chamorin, Bernard Cartier, Patrick Costes, Sebastian Berdu.

Subs from: Hadj Boudebza, Frederic Sana, Alex Cain, Mathew Khedimi.

Leigh will be without second rower Paul Marsh (knee) and are likely to give a start to Aussie John Perigo in his place.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.