'Blues are fearless'

Irish duo who've been behind French lines back Schmidt's men to deliver

Des Berry

EVEN the bookmakers are torn on this one.

There is no discernible advantage in odds for either the champions Leinster or the challengers Clermont-Auvergne.

Sometimes it is best left to those that have been and are in the business of playing the game to provide the inside eye on seeing what will happen in Bordeaux on Sunday.

Will Leinster move ahead of Leicester Tigers, London Wasps and Munster into outright second place as three-time winners of the Heineken Cup, one behind Toulouse?

Or will Clermont-Auvergne become the tenth winner and the third French club to reach the Holy Grail of European rugby?

It is balanced on a knife edge. Who better to ask than two former Ireland internationals? Leinster's Aidan McCullen and Munster's Mick O'Driscoll have played for French clubs.


Toulouse 2005-2006

Flanker Aidan McCullen followed in the large footsteps of Trevor Brennan by signing for Toulouse on a two-year contract in 2005.

He lasted one season before moving on to London Irish on the back of 16 appearances for Toulouse, despite the interruption of injury.

1.Who will win?

I think Leinster.


Their experience of winning tight games combined with the fact that they have no fear of playing away. That lack of fear is greater and stronger than a French club's fear away from home, even though the game is in Bordeaux.

3.How influential will the scrum be?

It depends on the day. If it is a wet day, it will be huge. If it is a nice, dry, hot day, it won't matter that much because Leinster will get the ball in and out quickly.

4.Where would you attack Clermont?

I would try to hit around the ten-twelve channel with my big runners, like Sean O'Brien and Jamie (Heaslip), go for the quick recycle and send up Cian Healy to test the outside shoulder of Brock James. I wouldn't be too concerned about trying to hit them off first phase -- build the phases, build the score.

5. What individual or unit battle is most key to the outcome?

If it is a nice day, the back row challenge will be significant. You want Seanie and Jamie taking out the Clermont backline by running at them, leaving space for your next set of big runners. If it is a wet day, the front row will settle it.


Perpignan 2003-2005

The second row was squeezed for game time by the umbilical relationship between Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan. He made the decision to move to Perpignan for two years.

O'Driscoll played 35 times for the Catalan club in what was a pack of forwards renowned as the fiercest in France.

He has just recently announced his decision to retire from rugby at the end of this season.

1.Who will win?

It is going to be very close and very tough. Leinster.

2. Why?

It is just the way Leinster are playing at the moment. They are high on confidence, used to winning at home and away from home and have a stronger bench than Clermont.

3. How influential will the scrum be?

As everyone knows the French pride themselves on their scrummaging, being dominant in that area. I played with Clermont's loose-head Vincent Debaty at Perpignan. He is very strong. But, he can be got at.

In saying that, Leinster have a superb scrum. They just have to break even there.

4.Where would you attack Clermont?

It is not about where. It is about how. They have to bring that high intensity, non-stop, no-holds-barred style of rugby.

5. What individual or unit battle is most key to the outcome?

It has to be the scrum. It is going to be vital. If Leinster can get that area right, it will make life a lot easier for them.