Sunday 30 April 2017

'There's a lot of guys in this squad who've suffered defeat over there' - Rhys Ruddock wary of Clermont

Rhys Ruddock of Leinster during a press conference at Leinster Rugby Headquarters in UCD, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Rhys Ruddock of Leinster during a press conference at Leinster Rugby Headquarters in UCD, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Leinster flanker Rhys Ruddock is wary of the threat that Clermont possess as the Blues prepare to head to Lyon this Sunday to take on the 2015 finalists.

Leinster have not played Clermont in Europe since their 2012 Heineken Cup winning campaign where they defeated Les Jaunards in the semi-final before toppling provincial rivals Ulster in the final Twickenham a month later.

However, before that win in Bordeaux, Leinster had won just once from four attempts against the French giants with two losses away, as well as one defeat at home in the 2013 group stages.

Ruddock failed to feature in any of those matches but he knows that many of his teammates did, and that they are drawing on both positive and negative experiences against Clermont in the past before this weekend's semi-final.

"Having played over in France before in big games... it can be intimidating," said Ruddock via RTE Sport.

"There's a lot of guys in this squad who've suffered defeat over there, and experienced and learned from that, and there's a lot of guys who've had wins over there.

"I think we're well equipped to go over and put in a performance but we know the difficulty of the challenge ahead is massive.

"Playing away in France against one of the best teams in Europe is always going to be tough.

"We need a bit of voice. I can only imagine there will be a lot of Clermont fans there and it will be really noisy and loud as it always is playing over in France, but I think that will excite everyone.

"We've got enough experience to deal with that. If the Leinster fans can make it over and make it extra special it will give us a boost."

Leinster Senior coach Stuart Lancaster added that the province are motivated by trying to match Toulouse's record of four European trophies and that it's important for his side to get off to a strong start on Sunday and to not give Clermont an opportunity to get out to an early lead.

"Since I've been here, I've been unbelievably impressed with the quality of players that are here, the mindset to want to get better and, also, the mindset to go to a fourth European Cup final," he said. "It is a massive, massive driver for the players.

"The players, quite rightly, are very proud and the players who played in those finals are very proud of what they have achieved in the past. They want to do it again for the fourth time.

"It is only Toulouse who have won the European Cup four times. That is the big, big driver for them. I can't fault the players. They've been outstanding.

"You've got to be aware when you're playing any team in France not to give them a start.

"That allows them to build momentum and belief in their game but there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that if we have a positive mindset to play the game from the first to the 80th minute, we can cause some problems. We saw both in the qualifying rounds and in the Guinness PRO12.

"We wouldn't have scored 86 tries by accident."

Winger Dave Kearney has been ruled of the tie with an ankle injury he suffered during the win over Connacht last weekend while number eight Jack Conan should be fit enough to start while Jamie Heaslip continues his recovery from a lower back injury.

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