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Generals pay respects while preparing for war

IT could be France against Ireland. It is Clermont-Auvergne against Leinster. It is also 'Le Petit General' Morgan Parra against 'Le Grand General' Jonathan Sexton.

These are two ace goal-kickers at the peak of their powers, Parra reflecting the very French tendency to use their scrum-halfs as goal-kickers and the primary playmaker, while Leinster take the more traditional route through their fly-half Sexton.

There is little, if anything, to choose between the two best teams left in the Heineken Cup. It could very well come down to which kicker kicks best.

"This is going to be the toughest test that we have ever faced," said Sexton.

"Toulouse, a couple of years ago in the semis, was tough. But this is going to be even tougher.

"They've got such a good squad. Our coach (Joe Schmidt) knows them. He knows how good they are.

"We are thinking of it as our final because it is our next game. There is a lot of nervousness and excitement.

"It isn't easy to go to France and get a win. We haven't done it too many times over the years. We've got to play our best to get a result."

Twenty-three-year-old Parra played at outside-half in the 2011 World Cup final and has scored 56 points in the Heineken Cup to guide Clermont to the semi-final for the first time.

Clermont will have to plan without fly-half David Skrela, who has been ruled out with a leg injury, leaving Brock James to start at 10.

Parra doesn't underestimate the reigning champions.


"If you are asking me to name the dangerous players in Leinster's team I will tell you they are the entire line-up," said Parra.

"Sexton, the back row, the props ... everyone. On top of that they know each other by heart and are so used to playing together. The Heineken Cup is their main goal but we have enough motivation to challenge them.

"Clermont want to win both the Heineken Cup and the Top 14. If we finish the season without a title that would be a huge disappointment," added Parra.

"The Heineken Cup is a tournament at the highest level and I just want to win it -- it would be a huge experience.

"I want to win titles wearing this jersey and I am not happy about simply qualifying for this semi-final.

"I want to grow and evolve with this team. I want to stay for a long time and I know it is possible for us to win titles."