Robbie Henshaw v Remi Lamerat will be the Champions Cup clash of the season - Will Greenwood
Former England World Cup winner Will Greenwood has predicted that this Sunday's Champions Cup semi-final between Leinster and Clermont will produce the 'clash of the season' between centres Robbie Henshaw and Remi Lamerat.
Both players are enjoying strong campaigns this season for their respective clubs and they will line up against each other in a match-up that Greenwood thinks will be one of the most intriguing individual battles of their entire tournament.
"Henshaw is the poster boy," wrote Greenwood in his column.
"His opening Champions Cup game for Leinster, at home to Castres in round one, told us the impact he would have and that he was a British & Irish Lion in the making.
"He was Herculean in Chicago for Ireland against New Zealand, and put in one of the most incredible shifts you are likely to see from a defensive player; then he was excellent in Dublin in March to deny England. That day he stamped his authority on the midfield, becoming one of the few players who has stared down Owen Farrell and not blinked.
"He is a player who has the look of Scott Gibbs, with his warthog style, the way he stays low to the ground, his bulging muscles, fast leg speed, and a mean streak that seems to scream: 'Thou shalt not pass'."
Henshaw was called up to the British and Irish Lions earlier this week with many tipping the Leinster centre to partner Saracens and England centre Owen Farrell in the midfield this summer.
Henshaw will be expected to take the majority of the ball carry responsibilities in the backline against a New Zealand defence that gave up just 14 points per game during last year's Rugby Championship.
France managed to put 19 past the All Blacks in November in a 24-19 defeat in Paris, with Lamerat in particular having a strong evening that night with 63 metres from just eight carries.
Greenwood, who was adept at both inside and outside centre, wrote that Lamerat had become the rock in the Clermont midfield and that he will need to provide a little bit of mongrel for Les Janauds on Sunday.
"Against him on Saturday will be one of the most underrated players in northern hemisphere rugby," Greenwood wrote of the French international.
"Lamerat is not spectacularly quick, or built like an outhouse - and is certainly no poster boy. In fact, he is almost everything Henshaw isn't.
"And yet he is equally as influential and has become the rock in the middle of the Clermont team, the player that has provided the mongrel in the midfield.
"In the sunshine of Lyon, whoever wins the battle of the midfield will either finish off the other team, backing up their forward power, or help swing a game back in favour of the team that is under the cosh up front.
"Henshaw and Lamerat are that good, and the arrival of both these players at their clubs at the start of the season transformed them into genuine contenders for the title."