Sunday 21 January 2018

O'Driscoll rubbishes French theory

Brian O'Driscoll has dismissed suggestions that French teams continue to suffer from travel sickness in the Heineken Cup as out of date.

Leinster clash with Clermont Auvergne in the quarter-finals at the RDS tomorrow night with O'Driscoll named at outside centre after recovering from a strained medial knee ligament.

It has been five years since a French team has claimed European club rugby's greatest prize, a statistic explained by their poor form on the road and their prioritising of the domestic league.

O'Driscoll, however, believes the runners-up of the last three Top 14 finals are capable of triumphing at any ground as Leinster launch the final stage of their title defence.

"The suggestion that French sides are bad travellers is old news as far as we're concerned," said the Ireland captain.

"We know that Clermont performed so strongly in Thomond Park last year and that they will take confidence from that game, so coming to the RDS will hold no fear for them.

"They are a side who are capable of going anywhere, playing well and winning.

"I'm sure that they would like nothing better than to come over here and spoil the party.

"The Heineken Cup is a great competition and winning it last year has made it attainable for us."

Clermont contain a host of French Grand Slam winners in their ranks, including influential scrum-half Morgan Parra.

"Clermont are a side who really impress me," said O'Driscoll.

"They have a lot of French players in their squad who play in critical positions and who are obviously in excellent form coming off the back of such a successful Six Nations.

"In Morgan Parra, Julien Malzieu and Jamie Cudmore they have some real quality and having watched some of their recent footage it's clear that they're playing some impressive stuff.

"They are a team who like to play on the front foot and when they do that they play their best rugby, so that's something that we will need to be wary of.

"If they're feeling in the groove they can be very dangerous."

O'Driscoll, playing for the first time since limping off against Scotland three weeks ago, is joined in Leinster's backline by winger Shane Horgan who has recovered from a foot problem.

The champions have been lifted by their one-point victory over fierce rivals Munster at Thomond Park last weekend.

Munster will be hoping to avoid a repeat of that result when they host Northampton on Saturday.

The two-time winners have been beaten just once at their Limerick stronghold in 15 years and put that proud record on the line against the only English side left in the competition.

Saturday's rivals met in the pool stages with the series finishing a home win apiece, though veteran winger Bruce Reihana insists Saints' narrow 12-9 defeat has helped dispel the aura shrouding Thomond Park.

"When we came off the pitch against Munster we felt battered. Games against them are like Test matches," said the Kiwi.

"We'll benefit from having played there once already. The noise, atmosphere and occasion got to a few of the boys last time.

"You see people screaming at you and it's more than just support, it feels like they are actually on the pitch. But now we know what's coming.

"When you break a tackle or make a break they go quiet, so if we keep them that way then we're doing a good job."

In Saturday's other fixture Biarritz host the Ospreys while on Sunday Toulouse and Stade Francais collide in a heavyweight all-French clash.

Press Association

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