New Clermont head coach Franck AzÃ©ma has set his sights on silverware this season after four years without a title for les Jaunards.
New Clermont Auvergne head coach Franck AzÃ©ma has set his sights on silverware this season after four years without a title for les Jaunards.
AzÃ©ma has stepped up to the top job this season after Vern Cotter's departure to take charge of Scotland, and he takes over as Clermont look to bounce back from a disappointing end to the 2013/14 campaign.
An inconsistent season ended in underwhelming fashion with a humbling defeat to Saracens in the Heineken Cup semi-finals, followed by the end of Clermont's 77-match unbeaten home record in a Top 14 play-off defeat to Castres.
The offseason saw a great deal of change both in the coaching staff, with Jono Gibbes coming in to work alongside AzÃ©ma, and in the squad, with a number of new faces arriving.
And now AzÃ©ma insists it's time to getting back to winning titles, with their last success coming back in 2010 when they won the only Bouclier de Brennus of their history, however he admits the competition will be very tough.
“When you are part of the coaching staff or squad of ASM Clermont Auvergne, you have the goal of winning a competition and some titles. But there are at least ten teams with the same objective,” he told Rugbyrama
“There are some minimum targets: to be in the top six of the Top 14 and in the quarter-finals in Europe.”
To help AzÃ©ma and Clermont achieve their objectives, there will be a number of new faces in the squad to freshen up an aging group.
In the backline Wales and Lions centre Jonathan Davies will look to establish himself as AurÃ©lien Rougerie's long-term successor, while World Cup-winning All Black Zac Guildford will be charged with replacing the departed Siviveni Sivivatu.
Long-time Bath full-back Nick Abendanon will also be expected to fill the boots of Lee Byrne as he and Jean-Marcellin Buttin fight for the starting spot.
The demise of Perpignan allowed Clermont to pick up two of the rising stars of the French game, second row SÃ©bastien Vahaamahina and fly-half Camille Lopez, who endured frustrating seasons last term.
Despite the arrivals, the offseason has been most notable for the machete attack on three veterans of the squad, Rougerie, Julien Pierre and Benjamin Kayser, but AzÃ©ma believes the squad has moved past that incident.
“We've done what was necessary,” he added.
“Both with regards to the emergency and helping the players with a psychologist. The work has been done and from what the players have said, they have moved on.”