Tuesday 23 January 2018

James hails Gibbes' role in Clermont's push for final glory

Clermont out-half Brock James has hailed the influence of former Leinster assistant coach Jono Gibbes as the French side plot to down the hat-trick-chasing Toulon in this Saturday’s Champions Cup final in Twickenham (Sportsfile)
Clermont out-half Brock James has hailed the influence of former Leinster assistant coach Jono Gibbes as the French side plot to down the hat-trick-chasing Toulon in this Saturday’s Champions Cup final in Twickenham (Sportsfile)
David Kelly

David Kelly

Clermont out-half Brock James has hailed the influence of former Leinster assistant coach Jono Gibbes as the French side plot to down the hat-trick-chasing Toulon in this Saturday's Champions Cup final in Twickenham.

Gibbes is hoping to win the European Cup with a second club having held the same role at Leinster Rugby when they won the title in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Only Toulouse veteran Guy Noves (1996, 2003, 2005, 2010) has won more titles as a coach.

"Jono brings his experience from Leinster, having won European and Pro12 titles," says the Australian playmaker, who has developed into a consistent pivot with the popular French club who are seeking their first ever European triumph.

"He has that winning experience, he has brought in a lot of detail for us which has been important.

"The most important thing is his experience in the big games, in winning competitions and also the detail he brings to the forwards' play and our attacking play.

"He has brought individual detail to merge into the team game-plan and it is something that has made a huge difference for us this season."

Clermont went 99 years without winning a French national title and did so under the tutelage of then assistant and now Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt, in 2010.

However, in that season's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster at the RDS, James fluffed his lines with a late drop-goal attempt and Clermont have since struggled to make the breakthrough to become European champions.

Leinster also beat them in the epic 2012 semi-final with current Ireland coach Schmidt head coach at the Irish province at a time when they were dominating European competition.

Since then, Leinster have struggled to reach those heights and Munster have also fallen short, losing to Clermont in the semi-final two seasons ago but James (pictured) doesn't believe that the moneyed French clubs are in danger of leaving the rest behind.

"I'm not sure it's true," he says of fears about a two-tier Europe. "Both semi-finals were very close games, very hard-fought as well. They both turned on just one try either way.

"So I don't think there's as much of a gap as people think. Leinster are still one of the best teams in Europe, Saracens have been finalists and semi-finalists so I don't think there is an issue.

"We can learn a lot from all the games that sides played against Toulon in recent years, especially from the knockout stages when Leinster and Munster played them.

"We will take into account everything that happened and come up with a strategy that we think will be effective.

"It's a cliché but we've learned a lot from the finals we've played in, for those who were here. And also we've developed as a team, we've a new team and coaching staff this year and new players in.

"Finals in the past are where they are, in the past. This is a new adventure for us."

Showpiece

Although 45,000 tickets have been sold for the Twickenham showpiece, and a crowd of 50,000 is expected, the pre-planned final may suffer due to the lack of a representative from the host country.

"We don't need to replicate what happened in the past, we know we always get good results wherever we play even if there isn't 40,000 of our supporters in the stadium," says the Australian.

"We know they are behind us. This is where we want to be. We've been building for this all year and it doesn't matter what the venue is.

"For us, the most important thing is what happens on the field for 80 minutes on Saturday. Two French teams playing in London is probably a promoter's nightmare but both teams know the final is in London and we were aiming for it all season regardless of the venue.

"It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd will show up. It has been decided a long time out so it's just part of the way the competition is run.

"There's no psychological barriers for us with Twickenham. Saracens played very well last year there in the semi and we didn't really show up. We don't want to wait 99 years to win a European title."

Irish Independent

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