Davies backs Clermont to deliver

Date published: April 18 2017

Former Clermont centre Jonathan Davies will be cheering on the French side when they take on Leinster in Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final.

Davies spent two seasons at les Jaunards before returning to the Scarlets and will be a keen observer of the Matmut Stadium de Gerland clash.

The Welshman was part of the side that lost the final in 2015 to Toulon but he is hopeful Clermont can finally make it their year this time around.

“There is a monkey on their back for always having been the bridesmaid in Europe, but they have so much quality and power in their side and they do look very comfortable at the moment,” Davies told EPC Rugby ahead of Sunday.

“Wesley Fofana is a big loss for them because he is their spark, and they have also lost Noa Nakaitaci, but when you look across the park they still have so much strength and depth. That was the one thing we always had when I was there – you lose an international player and you bring in another one.

“They have so much experience, but in the past when things have got tight in the big games they have sometimes gone into their shell. That’s what we did in the 2015 final at Twickenham.

Looking ahead to the clash, Davies thinks keeping the pace high will be key for Clermont if they are to overcome a dangerous Leinster side.

“Playing at tempo is the key thing for Clermont. When they can play with real tempo the whole side comes alive,” he added.

“Both teams will enjoy the occasion and there are a lot of very experienced players in both camps. As a squad, Clermont are very tight-knit, they all play for each other, the spirit is fantastic and everyone is very close.

“It will be whoever gets the ball rolling first, whoever finds their rhythm and gets comfortable. Clermont are very hard to stop when they get the ball rolling, especially with that pack – it was a pleasure to play with, rather than against, them, let me tell you.

“But if Leinster can get the high-tempo game they like to play, and move the big Clermont pack round, then they will be happy. When Leinster were dominant in Europe they were always one of the best teams at two or three phase plays.

“They were so accurate at setting up the strike plays and I think they’ve gone back to that. You can tell by their accuracy and execution that they very rarely waste an opportunity

“For me, it will come down to which of the two teams can dictate the pace of the game. Clermont looked very good in the pool stages and very businesslike against Toulon – I can see them going all the way this season.”