Rougerie tries to play down Clermont's chances

Des Berry

WHILE Leinster are considered warm favourites for the semi-final in Bordeaux, Clermont-Auvergne should have the greater motivational tools to get the job done.

There is the small matter of the Brock James implosion in the 2010 Heineken Cup quarter-final at the RDS. He missed five penalties and three drop goals that evening. Clermont lost out by one point (29-28).

There was a degree of putting the cart before the horse as Aurelien Rougerie appeared to attempt to put a lid on expectations.

"We have not won anything yet," he told his supporters ahead of the Heineken Cup semi-final and the prospective French Top-14 play-offs.

It has taken four attempts for Clermont to break through the quarter-final barrier. Toulouse (2000), Castres (2002) and Leinster (2010) had all blocked their path.

These were certainly buoyed by their total domination of English champions Saracens (22-3) in the quarter-final nearly three weeks ago. They are ready to take the next step. "We must keep calm and not get too excited because there is still a long way to go," warned Rougerie. "It is great that we are in the Heineken Cup semi-finals but we need to keep working because we have not won anything yet.


"Each title has a unique flavour to it but if we can really perform and win the Heineken Cup title, it would be unbelievable for the club and what a way it would be to celebrate our centenary season."

The Heineken Cup has taken on a greater significance for the Massif Central club. This can be gauged from how they took time out last week to make preparations for Leinster.

"Even before last weekend's Top-14 game against Montpellier we had already had a quick look at Leinster's quarter-final against Cardiff Blues. We already knew a fair bit about this team because we played them last year during the Pool stage.

"They have quality players everywhere but their biggest strengths are probably the back-row and their backs who are very fast -- it will be a huge challenge to face Rob Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy.

"And one thing that is sure is that their experience could work against us. They are so used to these games and if we are leading the game they won't panic.

"They showed this ability in last year's final against Northampton. It is a huge strength when you know how vitally important the details are in a Heineken Cup semi-final."

Imagine! A French club - not Toulouse - taking time away from French Top-14 preparations to plan for Europe. This is business most unusual.