Clermont v Aironi, Heineken Cup, November 18, 2011
Clermont look to bounce back against Aironi
November 17, 2011
Clermont's Morgan Parra finds his way to the try-line blocked by the Ulster defence © Getty Images
Clermont Auverge and Aironi go head-to-head in France on Friday with both sides looking to bounce back from opening weekend defeats in the Heineken Cup.
Clermont led Ulster throughout at Ravenhill but eventually came undone thanks to a late try from fly-half Ian Humphreys. They secured the all-important losing bonus point but with Ulster packing down against Leicester Tigers in the other Pool 4 clash on Saturday, they will look to set out their stall with an impressive win. And history is very much on their side going into the clash. They have won their last eight games at the Stade Marcel Michelin while Aironi have never won away from home.
However, Aironi know what it takes to take some of Europe's biggest scalps having overcome Biarritz in last year's tournament. They fell to the Tigers 28-12 at home in their opening clash of the tournament but managed to prevent the Welford Road side from securing the four-try bonus point. But with Aironi struggling in their domestic league and Clermont riding high in the Top 14, the onus is very much with the home side heading into this clash.
Clermont Auvergne - Player to Watch: Aurelien Rougerie showed some sparkling form during the World Cup and he will hope to replicate his mazy runs on the Heineken Cup stage.
Clermont Auvergne - Team News: Lee Byrne keeps his place at fullback but will play alongside a new wing partnership of Noa Nakaitaci and Julien Malzieu. Aurelien Rougerie and Wesley Fofana start in the centres while it's Brock James who gets the nod at fly-half alongside Morgan Parra. Julien Bonnaire, Julien Bardy and Gerhard Vosloo form the back-row with Nathan Hines and Loic Jacquet starting in the second-row. The front-row is Vincent Debaty, Ti'i Paulo and Mattheus Kotze. Gonzalo Canale comes onto the bench alongside Georgian prop Davit Zirakashvili.
Aironi - Player to Watch: Frans Viljoen was an injury concern last week against the Tigers but he has bounced back in time to face Clermont. The South African born No.8 is a new arrival at Aironi and will aim to show his new employers what he is capable of.
Aironi - Team News: There's no Andrea Masi in the Aironi line-up but Ruggero Trevisan keeps his place at fullback and is partnered by Sinoti Sinoti and Giovanbattista Venditti on the wings. Roberto Quartaroli and Gilberto Pavon start in the centres with Luciano Orquera and Tyson Keats lining up at half-back. Viljoen anchors the pack at No.8 with Josh Sole at openside and Joshua Furno at blindside. Marco Bortolami and Quintin Geldenhuys start in the second-row with Fabio Staibano, Tommaso D'Apice and Matias Aguero forming the front-row.
Key Battle: Tyson Keats faces a monumental battle at scrum-half with Morgan Parra - one of the stand-out half-backs in the world at the moment. Parra is at the centre of everything that Clermont do well and with an embarrassment of riches in their backline, Aironi will hope their scrum-half can nullify his threat.
Trivia: Clermont have never lost to an Italian side in the Heineken Cup having done the double over Benetton Treviso in the 1999-00 season and Viadana in 2009-10.
Stats: Brock James is Clermont's all-time record points scorer in the Heineken Cup with 214 to his name.
" You can't rely on you place kickers"
" Mentally we approach the game in the same way. They have a star-studded team just like Leicester. But we need to focus on ourselves and continue to improve. We are building something, we have to believe and stick to our processes."
Prediction: Clermont will be smarting from their opening round loss and will come out of this match with a four-try bonus point win
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