Rougerie makes Heineken Cup his target

French champions ASM Clermont Auvergne are ready to spearhead Les Bleus’ assault on Europe – with the Heineken Cup the target of French wing ace Aurelien Rougerie and his star-studded squad.

Speaking at the French and Italian launch in Paris Clermont captain Rougerie declared that contesting the tournament’s 16thfinal at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on Saturday, 21 May, was the next challenge.

“I hope we can make the step up from champions of France to champions of Europe, but it is an extremely demanding competition and it is going to be very difficult,” he said.

“Every team I have played against in the tournament has been a good side – the Heineken Cup is the top level of rugby – but we are a good side and have to believe in ourselves.”

After the all-French final in May, when Toulouse beat Biarritz Olympique 21-19 at Stade de France, now all roads lead to the Welsh capital.

The draw pitched Clermont in with 2009 Heineken Cup champions Leinster, and that means a clash with former Clermont coach Joe Schmidt, now head coach with the Irish province, when the teams meet in Rounds 3 and 4 with Leinster staging their home leg on 18 December at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

“We are in a tough group that includes Saracens, Racing Metro 9 as well as Leinster and obviously, while we hope to finish first, it is going to be very hard,” said the player who has scored 14 tries in 26 Heineken Cup appearances

“I am looking forward to meeting up with Joe (Schmidt) again and, although it hasn’t been the greatest of starts for him at Leinster, he has more internationals to come back into his team which will make them very strong and tough to beat.

“He brought a lot to our club as he taught us the basics and brought in our attacking lines – he will do well for Leinster.”

The tournament kicks-off the weekend after next with champions and four-times winners Toulouse starting their defence of the title with a home clash at Le Stadium against 2004 and 2007 winners London Wasps.

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