Defending Champions Wasps face Clermont showdown

Defending champions Wasps have revenge on their minds when they clash with Clermont in the latest round of matches in the European Cup this weekend.

 

The English side lost their first game since being crowned European champions against the formidable French outfit last week, going down 37-27 and missing out on a vital losing bonus point.

Wasps hooker Raphael Ibanez, France’s captain during the World Cup, admitted that his team faced an enormous task against Clermont.


“Clermont were very strong against us in (last week’s) match and, although there may have been a decision which went their way in terms of the try, they deserved the victory based on their performance and will no doubt be looking to put in another big display against us this weekend,” Ibanez said.


“The biggest problem for me against Clermont was that we were a bit timid in the first half.


“We stepped back a lot from the traditional values of this Wasps team, notably in our attack where our ball retention is normally very good, and maybe didn’t trust in our usual strengths as much as we should have done.


“Everything is balanced in terms of the Pool standings and we knew from the start that this was going to be a very difficult group to come out of.


“We know what we need to do this weekend in order to keep the dream of a quarter-final place alive but so do Clermont so it will be a tough challenge.” Wasps are currently in third place in Pool 5, on nine points along with Clermont. Leaders Munster are on 10 points and play winless Llanelli at home.


Three-time European Cup winners Toulouse also face a tricky tie against Leicester, with the pool’s other main contender Leinster playing bottom-placed Edinburgh on Friday.


Leicester eked out a 14-9 home win over the French side last weekend but hooker Ben Kayser, the former Stade Francais player, said Toulouse would be more difficult to beat on their home turf in the Pool 6 showdown.


“We cannot afford to lose that away game,” said Kayser. “We have to give it all we have to try and produce the best possible performance.


“We must build up some momentum because just putting pressure on in defence and dominating up front won’t be enough to beat them on Sunday.” Tigers assistant coach Richard Cockerill added: “Toulouse are a world class team – certainly one of the teams who can win this tournament – and they are a better side than they were last year.” Another key match will see Stade Francais travel to Wales on Saturday to play the Cardiff Blues, who lost to the Parisian club 12-6 last weekend in a game that could have gone either way.


The French side will be without Argentinian fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez who hasn’t recovered from a groin strain picked up last weekend.


His replacement David Skrela is likely to start the match.


Bristol are the other team involved in the three-way tussle for ascendancy in Pool 3, and are expected to beat struggling Harlequins at home on Sunday.


In Pool 1, meanwhile, South Africa’s World Cup winning full-back Percy Montgomery is expected to start his first game for Perpignan against London Irish.


Montgomery has recovered from a knee injury suffered in October’s World Cup final.


Fixtures

 

Saturday Pool 1

 

Newport-Gwent Dragons v Treviso

 

Perpignan v London Irish

 

Pool 2

Gloucester v Bourgoin

 

Pool 3

Cardiff Blues v Stade Francais

 

Pool 4

Viadana v Saracens

 

Pool 5

Wasps v Clermont Auvergne

 

Pool 6

Edinburgh v Leinster

Sunday Pool 3 Bristol v Harlequins


Pool 5

Munster v Llanelli S

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