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Cotter happy to fight on two fronts

CLERMONT-AUVERGNE coach Vern Cotter is a man on a mission.

"It's about spreading our wings, putting Clermont on the map, and getting that sort of wider recognition," said Cotter.

"There was a perception of Clermont as a poor-performing side given their resources. We've had to try to alter that, get consistency, be prepared to fight on two fronts, domestic and European.

"The Top 14 was the priority. It no longer is. We're going for both."

The man courted by England and the All Blacks finally led Clermont to the Top 14 title in 2010 after three failures in his four years in charge.

"In the town, they believed there was a curse on the team and that was why they hadn't won the French championship in 95 years, despite reaching 10 finals," said Cotter.


"The monkey was off our back. It was our task to get the team to concentrate on basics and to ignore all external stuff. It took a while."

Clermont have continued to improve, thumping English champions Saracens 22-3 away from home three weeks ago to reach the Heineken Cup semi-final for the first time ever.

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt knows Clermont's strengths only too well. Schmidt was brought to Clermont in 2007 by Cotter, who had worked with him at Bay of Plenty.

"We'll have a beer after because Joe is a true friend," said Cotter, who learned yesterday that he will be without fly-half David Skrela as the Frenchman has a thigh injury.

"It promises to be a great game of rugby and, as ever, it will come down to a little bit of luck."