Clermont left with fly-half headache

Date published: April 23 2013

Clermont could be short of a fly-half for their European semi-final against Munster after the ERC rejected Mike Delany's registration.

Clermont could be short of a specialist fly-half for Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster after the competition organisers European Rugby Cup (ERC) rejected the French club's request to register Kiwi pivot Mike Delany.

The one-cap All Black arrived in the Auvergne two weeks ago as a medical joker to cover for injured fly-halves Brock James and David Skrela, quickly finding his feet with excellent performances against Toulon and Toulouse.

With James having only returned to training this week after a three-week absence due to a thigh injury – much like Skrela – Clermont had hoped to be able use Delany for the clash with the former champions in Montpellier.

The ERC rejected 30-year-old Delany's paperwork because regulations state that new players must be registered before March 21, which Clermont were unable to do because the player had yet to receive his French playing licence.

“A team which qualifies for the knock-out stages has until March 21 to register three extra players. Clermont didn't register any,” an ERC spokesman told AFP.

“Lately there has been a request from Clermont to register Mike Delany and the club was told he could not play.”

Les Jaunards announced Delany's signing on March 19 but he only arrived at the club on April 9.

Clermont, however, have argued that another ERC regulation states that players must be registered by the Tuesday preceding a fixture, which they did. But the tournament organisers have turned a deaf ear to the Top 14 leaders' protests

“The ERC have their rules and their interpretations,” said Clermont manager Jean-Marc Lhermet.

“In this precise case there was a legal loophole. We'll make do with these constraints.

“Mike Delany can't play in the H Cup this season but Munster can use Paul O'Connell this weekend,” added Lhermet, referring to the controversial decision not to cite the Munster skipper following his accidental kick to the head of Leinsterman Dave Kearney ten days ago.

Even if Clermont beat the Irish province on Saturday, Delany, who signed a permanent two-year deal with the French side on Monday, would not be eligible for May's final either.

Clermont will thus have their fingers crossed that James will be fit to play this weekend. If not, scrum-half Ludovic Radosavljevic is likely to fill the breach as he successfully did in the quarter-finals against Montpellier.