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Browne warns Blues to be up for a battle with Clermont's big bruisers

LEINSTER lock Damian Browne is a rather large specimen at 20 stones. He has been around, spending three seasons with Brive in the Top-14 French League.

He earned a living fighting in the trenches everywhere from Paris to the regional satellite towns that populate the south of France. You could call it 'rugby country'.

In every club, there is 'the hard man' that the local folk look up to as the physical embodiment of the warrior spirit that seems to drive so many of the French clubs, especially when they play at home.

"They (the supporters) love them. They've (French clubs) produced many of them. They are very popular guys in the squads over there. They look up to them and they would have a big say behind the scenes," said Browne, 31.

Clermont-Auvergne have had Canadian lock Jamie Cudmore for seven seasons and former Leinster lock Nathan Hines for one. These are two old-style throwbacks.

These two men give a side physical reassurance and leaders in the rough-and-tumble exchanges that come guaranteed at this level of the game.

"It's like, 'do what I do. Follow me. I won't be taking a backward step and I don't expect you to'. Invariably, they don't," said Browne.

Leinster would do well to absorb the punishment that is surely coming their way and concentrate on the virtues that will lead to a third Heineken Cup final in four seasons.


"You've got to be task-orientated. They are niggly, especially some of the forwards. They are niggly kind of guys," added Browne. "You have to stay on task and not get dragged into it because then you waver off what you are meant to be doing".

Vern Cotter's Clermont-Auvergne bring a splendid variety to their game moving between the heat of muscular confrontation and the spring of gliding runners.

"They have everything really. They are the complete test for us, for anyone when you come against them. They are going to take you on up front. They are hugely physical. Then, they have these backs to play open rugby. It is literally coming from every angle and they are very good at it."

Leinster are blessed to be in Bordeaux rather than the Massif Central and the claustrophobic hostility of Stade Marcel Michelin.

"It has to help. I played in France for three seasons. I played home and away against them and never won in Clermont.

"Actually, I don't think I ever came within 40 points of them. That changing room is a scary place before that game. But, as long as they are in France, they don't have much to complain about."