Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lock up your daughters etc...the HC is coming to town!

So, with three French teams heading for Dublin this weekend, the conventional wisdom is to lock your daughters and wives up. And maybe, just to be sure your mothers and grandmothers. I mean, Irish fans would never behave like that when they go away. Anyway, leaving aside the perceived prowess of Frenchmen...what about the rugby?

Stade Francaise are a bit of an unknown quantity these days – they came 11th in the Top 14 this year and none of their players (in the match day squad) are involved with the French national team. What impressed me about their win over Perpignan in the semis  though was their physicality – they sucked Perpignan in  like a giant crushing machine and dropped little bits out the other side.  And the carrot for Stade here is that this is their ticket to the Heineken cup next season.  On the flipside, what disappointed me about Leinster’s narrow win over Glasgow last weekend was their lack of physicality – it was mainly a gigantic defensive effort, we weren’t on the front foot almost at all. Then we don’t have BOD or D’Arcy, and out locks look iffy – not iffy maybe but not threatening.  This is not shaping up well for us. I had a sense last week that they were pacing themselves for effectively three finals in a row. If they give it a 100% this weekend, will anything be left in the tank for next week? Also , we last played on Saturday, while Stade fielded a B Team last weekend, so they’ve had two weeks break. I’m examining the entrails here and I don’t like what I see.  We have home advantage, we took out Biarritz who are as good as Stade and maybe after all that i’m still going Leinster, but just, just squeaking home.

In the HC final, it’s the really big guns of French rugby, Clermont and Toulon slugging it out. I want Clermont to win it, for a few reasons. Firstly, they beat Leinster, and I want us only to have been beaten by the HC winners. Then I like Clermont too – they play attractive rugby, do the basics well, and are stuffed full of players you’d like for your own team. I don’t really like Toulon – I see them as the Man City of rugby, just going out and buying the best player in each position. They only had four French players in their starting 15 which is a bit poor for a French team you’d have to say. Overall, I think despite all of Toulon’s stars that Clermont have a better balanced team – brilliant forwards, and more creative and threatening backs. It’ll be close, but I think Clermont will do it.

Heineken Cup
Saturday , May 18
Clermont Auvergne vs Toulon 17:00
Amlin Challenge Cup
Friday , May 17
Stade Francais vs Leinster

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