Saturday 20 January 2018

'He didn't speak to me much' - Clermont's David Strettle delighted to get one over on Stuart Lancaster

David Strettle celebrates after their victory during the European Rugby Champions Cup semi final match between ASM Clermont Auvergne and Leinster at Matmut Stadium de Gerland yesterday
David Strettle celebrates after their victory during the European Rugby Champions Cup semi final match between ASM Clermont Auvergne and Leinster at Matmut Stadium de Gerland yesterday
Garry Ringrose races away from the Clermont defence to score a superb try. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Stuart Lancaster's history as England coach may have come back to haunt Leinster yesterday as Clermont winger David Strettle admitted he took some satisfaction in proving himself in front of the man who didn't pick him to play for his country.

Strettle's last cap came in 2013 and he moved to the French giants two years later, citing his lack of international opportunity under Lancaster as a major motivation for his decision to leave.

Yesterday, he scored one try and created another as Clermont beat Leinster in Lyon and afterwards he reflected on being able to get one up on Lancaster with some satisfaction.

"Stuart didn't speak to me much when I knew him so I don't think he'll speak to me much now," Strettle said.

"In any career, when someone doesn't respect you it's nice to go out and show them what you can do.

"I respect Stuart in a professional capacity but when he didn't pick me it was tough to take. I'm not the only player he didn't pick.

"Hopefully Stuart will watch that game and think, 'You know what, he's a better player than I thought he was'.

"Eddie (Jones) rang me before last year's Six Nations selections. I've never met him in person but he called me and said, 'I think your performances warrant a phonecall'.

"The way I interpret the international ruling is the player has to be head and shoulders above. He was honest. He said my performances weren't head and shoulders above but you're playing very, very well.

"I respected that. It was quite ironic that somebody who didn't have to contact me, contacted me, when the regime I was under never bothered."

The winger, a former Saracen, believes his side have what it takes to finally end their wait for a European title.

"They're definitely beatable. When I was at Saracens, Clermont showed they can beat them. It's going to be two very good teams going against each other so who knows what can happen?" he said.

"Saracens will definitely be favourites. Clermont have got this monkey on their back so until the day that's gone the favourites will be the defending champions. If we're at the top of our game we can beat them."

Leinster, meanwhile, will have to wait another year to return to the top table but they know that they are far closer now than they were a year ago.

"We feel very frustrated because we are that close and a lot of it is in our own control," coach Leo Cullen said.

"Everyone is gutted in the dressing room.

"We gave a lot, we prepared incredibly well, we worked so hard through the season, the players are frustrated because there are certain things we could manage better but, there are some learnings for a lot of players.

"We just need to get back at it, we've a game next Friday, hopefully we learn our lessons we can improve and get better so if we're in this situation again, in France or wherever, we can manage the scenario better.

"But there is a lot more to come from this team.

"The group is definitely stronger. A lot of younger players have emerged and the way they work is really pleasing.

"We are gutted we are not on our way to a final because the group has given a huge amount. It was there. It was in our grasp.

"We just have to dust ourselves off now and focus on Friday. The squad is pushing one another hard. It is going to be a competitive last few weeks of the season for us, internally the way we train, which will hopefully lead to bigger performances."

Rhys Ruddock, who put in a massive performance in his first European semi-final, said it was essential that Leinster take the lessons from Lyon.

"As a group, it is important that we learn from it," he said.

"This group hasn't been through something like this before so we take those learnings from the first 15 minutes and the rest of the game;how we controlled the game and take the positives from how we finished.

"And if we get this opportunity again next year, we won't make the same mistakes again."

Irish Independent

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