Leinster v ASM Clermont Auvergne Preview

Leinster welcome back Ireland internationals Shane Horgan, Kevin McLaughlin and Brian O’Driscoll for Friday’s Quarter Final and the trio have been added to the extended panel which is expected to be reduced on Thursday lunchtime.

In all there are 15 Ireland internationals in the squad which also includes Scotland’s Nathan Hines who featured in Leinster’s 16-15 victory over Munster last weekend in a back-row which included Jamie Heaslip and Shane Jennings. Rob Kearney scored his sixth try of the season in both competitions in Limerick and for the second successive game.

Friday’s game will be played in front of an increased capacity crowd of almost 20,000 and will be a sellout.

Speaking ahead of Friday’s Heineken Cup Quarter Final, Leinster Coach Michael Cheika said that the squad are expecting their biggest test yet against ASM Clermont Auvergne.

“When you come into the last week before the match what you’re looking for is confirmation of the things you’ve seen (of them) on tape, which we got. It was a good physical match (against Stade Francais) so we were able to confirm some bigger picture issues.

“They didn’t win the game, but if you look at their performances over the entire season is they’re a pack of power. They have some unbelievable threats that we’re going to have to deal with, as well as a really strong defence and an excellent kicking game, and they’re very complete.

“As far as their position in the French league is concerned, two of the teams ahead of them aren’t playing in Europe so the teams that are having to fight on two fronts are managing quite well, of which Clermont is probably top of the pack.

“Are they the most complete side in France? I think so. They seem to have a bit of everything; big power up front, an excellent set piece, they can be very destructive in the maul and they have some interesting play-makers such as (Morgan) Parra who was the Player of the Six Nations.

“He’s orchestrating everything around the base, there’s Brock James and they have a lot of other threats across their backline and off the bench as well. We see them as the best team that’s operating in France at the moment and I think it really resonates for us that it’s going to be a massive game.

“We’d be confident that all of them (Shane Horgan, Kevin McLaughlin and Brian O’Driscoll) will play. Brian did some training over the weekend as did Kevin, while Shane will train today (Monday) although he has been doing some off-field stuff. We’re taking an extra precaution to get him right for this week, and he’d be pretty confident as well, so there should be no problem there.

“Shane’s an experienced player, but it doesn’t mean it’s an automatic entry because the lads have been playing very well. Girvan (Dempsey) has been playing out of his skin while Kearney’s playing well, so it’s going to come down to selection. But the fact that he’s available for us, all going well this week, will make a lot of difference to the make up of the team.

“Friday’s win (against Munster) makes this week a bit easier and you’ve a bit more of a smile on your face for a preparation point of view, but that’s about it. We’ve learned too many times in all competitions – whether it’s in European back-to-backs, or Magners (League) to Heineken Cup, or Magners to Magners – that the last week means nothing unless you back it up the next week.

“This is sudden death football now, so I think it’s going to come down to who wants it more on the night now. Clermont are a team who don’t seem to have an issue about going away from home. They have shown their strategic prowess in the two matches they played in their pool against Leicester and the Ospreys. They’re also very well managed and it’s going to be the biggest battle of our season so far.”

Heineken Cup Quarter final
Match : Leinster v ASM Clermont Auvergne
Venue :

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