Monday 22 January 2018

Montpellier throw in Euro towel as they bring second string to Ulster

Jeremy Davidson
Jeremy Davidson

Niall Crozier

Jeremy Davidson probably knows as much about French rugby, culture and mindsets as any Ulsterman.

Of the 21 years since he celebrated his 18th birthday, nine have been spent living in France. Fluent in the language and at home with the rural customs of the Auvergne region in south-central France, he loves the country, the people and their way of life.

As a result of living and working in France as second division Aurillac's head coach -- he also played for Castres for three years and coached them for two before taking up a job as Ulster's forwards guru and then going back once more in 2011 -- he is able to keep close tabs on who is doing what in rugby.

And the message from his home 350 miles from Paris and 140 from Toulouse is that Montpellier have stated publicly that, for them, the Heineken Cup is over as a result of home defeats by Ulster and Leicester Tigers, with a Welford Road reversal wedged in between.

"It's like a French team going to Ravenhill in the 1990s and noughties when they really didn't expect to win over there. Ulster are such a good side from one to 23 that Montpellier really don't expect to beat them in Belfast," he said.

AMAZING

"Ulster won in Montpellier, which was an amazing performance. I'm not sure if people at home fully appreciate just how good a result that was.

"They have already said this week that they are resting Jim Hamilton and Mamuka Gordgodze, two of their main players."

Scottish international lock, Hamilton, is 6ft 8ins and one pound light of 20 stone. Georgian international flanker, Gordgodze, is 6ft 5ins and 18st 8lbs. That's a lot of height and weight to be leaving at home.

"They have said that they will be putting out their second team to give squad players a run since they have no ambitions in Europe any more. So it looks very favourable for Ulster," Davidson said.

However, he was quick to add: "That said, Montpellier have a bigger budget than any Celtic League team and their reserve players are of a very, very high standard. They're not going to want to let themselves down."

As for how he sees the match itself going, the former Dungannon, Ulster, Ireland and Lions lock said: "I believe Ulster can play with a higher intensity than Montpellier can live with. The key in the first half is just to play safe, use their kicking game to play in the Montpellier half, build their innings and create that seed of doubt in Montpellier's minds.''

Irish Independent

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