Be honest. Have you looked forward to a game as much this season? The defending Heineken Cup champions Leinster travel to Bordeaux on Sunday afternoon to face Clermont for a place in the Heineken Cup final, kick off 4.00pm local time (3.00pm Irish time)
If you could hand pick a tougher semi-final draw for Leinster then this would be it. Clermont are the team in France at the moment. A huge, physical side that is dripping with world class players from 1-15.
Joe Schmidt returns to his former club in rude health. Miles clear in the Rabo Pro12, Leinster have picked apart teams this season with ruthless and clinical ease at times.
Their facile dismissal of Cardiff Blues in the quarter final bordered on the ridiculous. Not may teams would have such an important game wrapped up by half time. Leinster did.
To win on Sunday however,much more will be required. Conditions in Bordeaux are set to be testing which will favour the heavier Clermont pack, who are 4.5kgs heavier per man than Leinster.
The front trio of Leinster, Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross will have to be on top of their game if they are to get a foothold at scrum time.
Schmidt is also well aware of how dangerous Clermont are around the fringes, which makes the selection of Issac Boss all the more noteworthy.
Unlike Eoin Redden, Boss will offer that little extra snap and physical bite at ruck time, ensuring quick ball for Jonny Sexton, who has looked back to his self assured best after an up and down time in the Six Nations.
The backlines are a who’s who of international rugby. For Clermont Lee Byrne, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana and Julien Malzieu represent the toughest and most talented back line that Leinster have faced in the competition this season.
Rougerie in particular will be a huge danger for the boys in blue. A local hero in Clermont, Rougerie is a giant of a man who can run and step like few others. Leinster will have to be on guard at all times.
Leinster’s backline is not too shabby either. Luke Fitzgerald, Gordon D’Arcy, some guy called O’Driscoll, Isa Nacewa and Rob Kearney (at the moment the best fullback in Europe) are as good a backline in Europe this season.
Brian O’Driscoll’s try against Cardiff in the quarter final showed just how devastatingly brilliant Leinster can be at times . If Leinster’s backs can click like the did against Cardiff then the prospect of an all Ireland Heineken Cup final becomes that much more realistic.
Clermont may have ‘home’ advantage but the selection goes to the team that has only lost one semi-final in the last four seasons. Leinster are selected to join fellow Irish province Ulster in the Heineken Cup final.
ASM Clermont Auvergne: L Byrne; S Sivivatu, A Rougerie [capt], W Fofana, J Malzieu; B James, M Parra; L Faure, B Kayser, D Zirakashvili, J Cudmore, N Hines, J Bonnaire, A Lapandry, E Vermeulen.
Replacements: T Paulo, V Debaty, D Kotze, J Pierre, J Bardy, L Radoslavjevic , R King, J Buttin
Leinster: R Kearney: I Nacewa, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (Capt.), B Thorn, S O’Brien, S Jennings, J Heaslip.
Replacements – S Cronin, H van der Merwe, N White, D Toner, K McLaughlin, E Reddan, I Madigan, F McFadden