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Gibbes anticipates a 'big' challenge at Ravenhill

FORWARDS coach Jono Gibbes could be talking about Ulster when he mentions Clermont-Auvergne before Leinster line up to knock down both clubs over the next nine days.

"They're big," he said succinctly. "They are well-drilled and they've got a couple of really good operators in their pack that are cohesive.

"Good scrum, pretty strong at the pick-and-go, good drive, pretty disruptive defending drives."

Yes Sir! Clermont could be Ulster for the forward heft they bring to any party - Heineken- or Rabodirect- sponsored - and the playmaking half-backs that feed off them.

All in all, you could go so far as to say Ulster should be the perfect preparation for what lies ahead in the Heineken Cup semi-final in Bordeaux.

First up, Gibbes will have to put together a PRO12 plan to deal with Ulster playing at home in Ravenhill tomorrow night on a rising tide of confidence.

There could have been a slight dip in appreciation for the opposition were it not for the Irish dimension to this equation that always demands the utmost respect and application from players and coaches.

"It is an Interpro which puts it in the forefront of the players' minds. Ulster will be mindful they are still chasing a qualifying spot," said Gibbes.



Important

Indeed, the Ospreys, Munster and Glasgow Warriors hold rungs two, three and four, respectively on the ladder with Ulster in fifth and the Scarlets in sixth hot on their heels.

"From a player's point of view, there's a bit on Friday night. We've had a look what's around the corner (Clermont) as coaches, but not in depth because it is important we get this week right for us."

In the meantime, the dates and times for the PRO12 League semi-finals have been announced.

First seeds Leinster are the only outfit safe in the knowledge that they know where they are going to play, if not who they will play in the second semi-final on Saturday, May 12 at The RDS.

PRO12 LEAGUE SEMI-FINALS

Seed 1 Leinster v Seed 4. - The RDS, 7.35, Saturday May 12.

Seed 2. v Seed 3. - at home ground of Seed 2, 7.35, Friday, May 11.


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