Saturday 14 December 2019

Cotter under no illusions about size of task ahead in Sarries clash

Clermont Auvergne 22 Leicester 16

Jordan Crane of Leicester dives to score a try
Jordan Crane of Leicester dives to score a try
Anthony Allen of Leicester
A Clermont Auvergne dresses up as Bart Simpson

Mick Cleary

Clermont Auvergne travel to Twickenham in three weeks' time with no fear in their soul about taking on the English league leaders burnished as they are with the down-to-earth values of the man who has coached them for the past eight years.

Vern Cotter, bound for the head coach's job with Scotland at the end of the season, would love to sign off his time in France with the trophy that has eluded them.

A hard-earned victory on Saturday against Leicester takes Clermont in to the last four for the third year in succession. Last season, they lost to Toulon in the final despite dominating the game.

In 2012, they fell to Leinster in the semi-final, having dispatched Saracens (22-3) with a commanding display at Vicarage Road in the quarter-final.

Cotter is all too aware of what it will take to scale the peaks of that victory against Saracens again.

"This is a team that doesn't get things easily," the New Zealander said. "We have to work for everything. It means that we keep our heads down and get on with it."


His captain, centre Aurelien Rougerie, believes that this win should serve as a prelude to great things. "We have always been ravenous for the ultimate victory in Europe," Rougerie said. "We hope that this victory can be the beginning of a new journey."

Leicester were 16-0 adrift after barely half an hour before finding a foothold when fly-half Owen Williams' cross-kick to the receptive grasp of flanker Jamie Gibson resulted in a try for Jordan Crane. Williams converted the score and finished with 11 points.

"We had our backs to the wall during that first half and it would have been very easy playing away in France just to have accepted what was coming and (effectively) walked off," said Tom Youngs.

Leicester will use the defeat to spur the defence of their Aviva Premiership crown but the reality of this defeat ought not to be air-brushed too easily. The disparity in spending between the French and English clubs inevitably raises its head.

"It is not a case of apples for apples in Europe is it?" Richard Cockerill, the Leicester director of rugby, said. "That was not the reason we lost. It just means you can't have the layers and layers of players. We have to use this now." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Clermont – J-M Buttin; S Nakaitaci, A Rougerie, W Fofana, N Nalaga; B James, M Parra; T Domingo (V Debaty 49), B Kayser (T Paulo 51), D Zirakashvili (C Ric 68); J Cudmore, N Hines (J Pierre 75); J Bonnaire, D Chouly, F Lee (J Bardy 70).

Leicester – M Tait; B Scully, M Tuilagi, A Allen, N Goneva; O Williams (T Flood 75), B Youngs (D Mele 75); M Ayerza (B Stankovich 75), T Youngs, L Mulipola; L Deacon (G Kitchener 57), E Slater; J Gibson, J Salvi, J Crane (T Waldrom 61).

Ref – A Rolland (IRFU)

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