Clermont and Racing set for crunch clash
January 13, 2011
Racing's Juan Martin Hernandez is set to lead his side's challenge for a notable euro double over Clermont Auvergne © Getty Images
Clermont Auvergne and Racing Metro will be playing for their Heineken Cup lives when they meet in a crucial Pool 2 clash at the Stade Marcel Michelin on Friday night.
Victory is a must for both sides in their bid to reach the quarter-finals with pool rivals Leinster currently leading the chase and holding a five point cushion. Racing edged out Clermont 16-9 in their clash earlier in the season and took the spoils in their Top 14 clash but with Leinster awaiting them in Round 6 the pressure is on the visitors to strike a killer blow in Montferrand.
High-flying Racing enter the clash having gone unbeaten since their last euro outing on a run including victories over Montpellier and Toulon and although Clermont have been victorious also - over Bourgoin and Perpignan - they slumped to defeat against Brive last time out. However, they have not been beaten at home this season which suggests there is still life in their challenge yet.
Clermont Auvergne - Player to Watch: No.8 Sione Lauaki has been at his rampaging best at times this season and is set to take a central role once again in such a high profile fixture.
Clermont Auvergne - Team News: Tight-head Clement Ric earns his first H-Cup cap, Julien Pierre is back in the second-row while Lauaki returns to anchor the scrum. Aurelien Rougerie has recovered from a throat injury and will partner Gonzalo Canale in midfield while Benoit Baby will fill the fullback berth.
Racing Metro - Player to Watch: Juan Martin Hernandez returns to the fly-half jersey this weekend in place of the banned Jonathan Wisniewski. The Pumas playmaker was born for the big stage and will be out to make the position his own.
Racing Metro - Team News: Dan Scarbrough is named at fullback following Hernandez's switch, with Benjamin Fall on the wing. There is no place in the squad for Sebastien Chabal, Frans Steyn or Lionel Nallet.
Key Battle: Hernandez will need to back up his flicks and tricks against the ultra-reliable Brock James in the fly-half battle if Racing are to succeed.
Trivia: Clermont Auvergne have battled for European honours under two previous guises - Clermont-Ferrand and Montferrand.
Stats: Clermont Auvergne have qualified for the last eight on just three previous occasions while Racing are pressing for the knock-out stages on their H-Cup debut.
Quote Unquote: "We had to be cornered to start playing rugby. We have seen that when we play, we can hurt teams." - Clermont lock Julien Pierre reflects on defeat to Brive.
Prediction: Home advantage set to be key with Les Jaunards living to fight another day and denying Racing a bonus point in the process.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Proposals to remove promotion and relegation from the Aviva Premiership would be for the good of the game overall, argues John Taylor
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery