Clermont & Parra hoping for fourth time lucky

French champions ASM Clermont Auvergne and Leinster are poised to go head-to-head yet again – with Clermont still feeling the pain of being knocked out 29-28 by Leinster in Dublin in last season’s quarter-finals.

That was the third tournament meeting between the teams with Leinster winning the lot and Clermont’s international scrum half Morgan Parra is determined to end that run at Stade Marcel Michelin on Sunday ahead of the reverse fixture at the Aviva Stadium six days later.

“Last season we missed out on qualification for the Heineken Cup semi-finals by just one point against Leinster and that was hugely frustrating,” he said.

“This year we will try and go one better and now we are about to face Leinster again back-to-back in the next two rounds so we have a lot of work to do to be prepared.

“We know we could well have won that quarter-final so we know we have the potential to win against them this time round.

“This is a key time in the Heineken Cup and I believe Round 3 will set the tone and after that match we will see clearer whether we are able to qualify and can get closer to our goal.

“Winning the Heineken Cup title after finally lifting the Brennus Shield would be ideal for us. That would be a big statement and recognition.

“We are going to work towards achieving that and our fate is in our own hands.”

Leinster top Pool 2 with wins over Racing Metro 92 and Saracens while Clermont have also beaten Saracens but lost on the road at Racing.

And, with former Clermont coach Joe Schmidt now Leinster’s head coach, Parra knows that the Irish province will be both well prepared and informed.

“Joe taught us a rigorous approach, not the usual French way of doing things like we were used to,” added Parra.

“He brought a lot to our club with his personal touch and led us, along with Vern Cotter, to that long sought-after French championship title, so we owe him a lot.

“He will certainly use his insight and knowledge of our club to prepare his men. He knows us by heart – and it might well give them an edge against us.

“On top of that Leinster is a real force to be reckoned with and, despite their current position in the Magners League, they give a lot and make a lot of sacrifices to compete in the Heineken Cup alongside the other two Irish provinces.

“They have a huge number of international players and yet they always try their very best to be competitive in their domestic league as well as in the Heineken Cup.

“We know we are in for a tough series of games against Leinster but we have the same ambitions as them – to do well in our domestic championship and go far in the Heineken Cup. Now it’s down to us to do it.”

Parra has given Clermont a real boost by signing a new contract with the club, declaring: “With regards to my contract extension, I wanted to settle in at the club in the long term and after what we experienced as French champions last season, I couldn’t simply leave it at that.

“I want to experience other things with Clermont and try to reach new objectives. I enjoy being in this club and I’m pleased to have made that move, although I will always keep Bourgoin in my mind.”

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