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Clermont look to take European form into Top14


Brock James celebrates a victory for Clermont

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Article Published: Thursday 25 October 2012


Clermont return to Top 14 action on the weekend on a high after obliterating Scarlets and Exeter in two highly impressive Heineken Cup outings that earned them two bonus points - the only club to do so.

The Vern Cotter-coached Clermont dispatched Scarlets 49-16 before running in a 46-12 victory over Exeter, and flanker Julien Bonnaire said the two wins had left the side knowing they had to face Biarritz at home on Friday with the same mentality.

"Those two European Cup matches have done us the world of good," said Bonnaire. "What we did on the pitch and what we achieved have given us confidence. Our spirit has changed.

"We knew that we absolutely had to win, but in the Top 14 it's also the same thing.

"We cannot allow ourselves to lose at home, we must do the necessary to remain among the top teams in the standings, and that starts by a win on Friday."

Clermont sit in third spot, on the same 28 points as Toulouse after two losses, with Toulon out in front on 32pts with just one loss from their eight matches so far this season.

Biarritz may be sitting mid-table with four wins and four losses, but they are the last side to have beaten Clermont at their Stade Michelin fortress, way back in November 2009.

"We'll try to make a better start than those we've endured in our last few games at home," said Bonnaire.

"Every team that comes here wants to try and shatter our invincibility. They're not under pressure, they play in a liberated fashion, and it's up to us to show them that they won't win at our stadium."

Backs coach Franck Azema added: "With 10 points from 10 on offer (in the European Cup), we couldn't have done better.

"It's also interesting for the level of changing what we could produce on the paddock.

"This competition has allowed the squad to evolve our game as we want it."

Azema added: "The Top 14 is another committment and we must respect that. We've won nothing! We're just on our roadmap as far as what we had to do in the European Cup."

With the same team having turned out for their two European games, save for the banned Nathan Hines in the second match, Clermont are likely to ring the changes for Friday.

David Skrela should take over from Brock James at fly-half, with Elvis Vermeulen slotting in for Damien Chouly in the backrow, while backs Jean-Marcellin Buttin and Anthony Floch, and forwards Loic Jacquet and Vincent Debaty should also get a run-out.

Toulouse travel to Stade Francais on Saturday without flanker and talisman Thierry Dusautoir.

The France captain twisted his knee in a tackle in Toulouse's 33-21 victory over Treviso in the European Cup last weekend.

He has been ruled out for up to six weeks and was withdrawn from the France squad to play November internationals against Australia, Argentina and Samoa.

Dusautoir's replacement in the France squad is teammate and fellow flanker Yannick Nyanga, who insisted that Toulouse would overcome a raft of injuries to put their best foot forward for the match at the 80,000-seater Stade de France.

"If matches were won each time just on the line-ups on paper, it would be too easy," Nyanga said.

"We would be unbeaten or not far from it, apart from Toulon, maybe, who have a lot of internationals. We're trying to find consistency and precision."

In other games, leaders Toulon host Bayonne, fourth-placed Montpellier entertain Grenoble, fifth-placed Castres travel to Agen, Perpignan are at home to Racing Metro, while Bordeaux-Begles head to Mont-de-Marsan in the battle of the basement.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Clermont v Biarritz (1850)

Saturday

Stade Francais v Toulouse (1300),
Agen v Castres,
Mont-de-Marsan v Bordeaux-Begles,
Montpellier v Grenoble,
Toulon v Bayonne (all 1630),
Perpignan v Racing Metro (1840)

 
 
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