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From saint to a 'sinner' Ex-Leinster man Hines eyeing Blue murder with loyalty now lying at Clermont

NATHAN Hines plans on making Leinster pay the maximum penalty for letting him go to Clermont Auvergne 18 months ago.

It is not a vendetta he holds onto, just the mindset of a professional with a mission to remind his coach Vern Cotter why he recently recommended a one-year contract extension for the much-travelled, much-revered second row.

"I won the Heineken Cup once with Leinster. I know what an achievement it is, how special it is. I want to relive it with Clermont," he said.

Hines also has news for Leinster. The French club ranks the Heineken Cup right up there alongside the treasured Bouclier de Brennus.

"I think it is equally as important for the club. When we play in the Heineken Cup, that is our focus. When we play in the French Top 14, that is our focus.

"Champions of France is prestigious. But, champions of Europe is certainly taking on a new meaning in France," he stated.

Opportunity

The former Scotland second row from Wagga Wagga in Australia is keen to make up for a lost opportunity when he chose the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa over Perpignan's French Cup final victory over -- guess who? -- Clermont Auvergne.

"We've got a lot of ambition and a lot of motivation to do it. I played with Perpignan when we won the French Top 14 in 2009.

"But, I opted to go away with the British & Irish Lions when the French final was being played. I want to play in one this season, the Heineken, the French or both."

This sounds like the greedy approach of a winner and a man, possibly, with less than two years left in the professional game.

"The thing is that we are all competitors. We all want to win and that's why we do what we do whether or not we're mates off the pitch. We try our best to get one over on each other."

There was surprise at his coach Cotter's comments that last Sunday would "lift the confidence" of the Clermont players. They win without playing all that well.

"It is hard to say why we didn't play as well as we can. There was a lot of pressure on. You had the European champions who had won three of the last four Heineken Cups.

"They beat us last year in the semi-final. We were at home trying to get a good result to give us the best chance of getting out of the pool."

The five-point stretch back to Leinster has led to a release of pressure on Clermont.

"It would take a minor miracle for Leinster to bridge that gap.

"The pressure is not really on us now. It's on Leinster. We won our home game. We are five points in front of them. The ball is in Leinster's court."

The pressure may have moved shoulders. But, the implosion of the Clermont scrum did not go down too well with Cotter or the forwards.

"I wasn't at all surprised by their strength in the scrum. On their ball, they were outstanding. On our ball, we were fine," said Hines.

"Leinster have a good scrum. They work hard with Greg Feek. They have been working towards a very cohesive unit for two years and more.

"Mike Ross has had more than one good day. You can't put that down to luck. Rossie has been working hard for a long time to be a great scrummager. The work he has put in has paid off."

Hines also noticed the improvement of another individual not that long ago considered a weakness at scrum time.

"Cian (Healy) is one of the strongest oxes I know. He is really strong. He is still young. It takes time to grow technically. He has come on leaps and bounds under Greg Feek.

"As you saw last Sunday, he is beginning to be very effective against great scrummaging teams. He also did well against the Argentina scrum in November which is no mean feat."

Leinster will bring a different dimension to the Aviva where they have not been beaten. But Clermont have shown they are turning into soldiers on the road.

"For the most part, we are worried about how we play. If we are more effective in holding onto the ball we will put more pressure on them rather than them playing in our half," he said.

"We're confident that we can play well enough to win.

"But, it depends on other factors. Leinster can take us apart in one action. We can still play well and lose.

"You look at Saracens away last year. You look at Exeter away this year. We played well. But Leinster is different gravy."

There is room enough for two to make it into the Heineken quarter-finals from Pool Five. Who knows? Leinster and Clermont might just meet again back at the Aviva in May.

p Sky Sports will show Round 4 of the Heineken Cup this weekend as part of Sky's year-round rugby union coverage, including Leinster v Clermont Auvergne tomorrow from 3.40pm.


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