Planet Rugby

Preview: Clermont v Biarritz

25th October 2012 16:17

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Julien Pierre clermont

Julien Pierre: Second-row muscle for Clermont

High-flying Clermont will look to transfer their strong form in Europe to the domestic scene against Biarritz as the Top 14 returns to Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin on Friday.

Clermont are on a high after obliterating Scarlets and Exeter in two highly impressive Heineken Cup outings that earned them two bonus points - the only club to do so.

Vern Cotter's side dispatched Scarlets 49-16 before running in a 46-12 victory over Exeter, and flanker Julien Bonnaire said the two wins had left the side knowing they had to face Biarritz at home on Friday with the same mentality.

"Those two European Cup matches have done us the world of good," said Bonnaire.

"What we did on the pitch and what we achieved have given us confidence. Our spirit has changed.

"We knew that we absolutely had to win, but in the Top 14 it's also the same thing.

"We cannot allow ourselves to lose at home, we must do the necessary to remain among the top teams in the standings, and that starts by a win on Friday."

Clermont sit in third spot, on the same 28 points as Toulouse after two losses, with Toulon out in front on 32 with just one loss from their eight matches so far this season.

Biarritz may be sitting mid-table with four wins and four losses, but they are the last side to have beaten Clermont at their Stade Michelin fortress, way back in November 2009.

"We'll try to make a better start than those we've endured in our last few games at home," said Bonnaire.

"Every team that comes here wants to try and shatter our invincibility. They're not under pressure, they play in a liberated fashion, and it's up to us to show them that they won't win at our stadium."

Backs coach Franck Azema added: "With 10 points from 10 on offer (in the European Cup), we couldn't have done better.

"It's also interesting for the level of changing what we could produce on the paddock.

"This competition has allowed the squad to evolve our game as we want it."

He continued: "The Top 14 is another committment and we must respect that. We've won nothing! We're just on our roadmap as far as what we had to do in the European Cup."

Biarritz have made two changes to the side that beat Zebre in the Heineken Cup. Fromer Clermont utility back Benoīt Baby replaces Aled Brew on the left wing while Arnaud Heguy starts at hooker in a straight swap with Benoit August, who drops to the bench.

Having started with the same in their two European games, save for the banned Nathan Hines in the second match, Clermont have rung the changes for Friday.

David Skrela takes over from Brock James at fly-half, Aurelien Rougerie shifts to the wing with Elvis Vermeulen slotting in for Damien Chouly in the back row.

Vincent Debaty gets a run-out in the front row.

The teams:

Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Aurelien Rougerie (capt), 13 Regan King, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Noa seru Nakaitaci, 10 David Skrela, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Elvis Vermeulen, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Alexandre Lapandry, 5 Julien Pierre, 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Daniel Kotze Kotze, 2 Benoit Cabello, 1 Vincent Debaty.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Jamie Cudmore, 19 Damien Chouly, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 Brock James, 22 Wesley Fofana, 23 Davit Zirakashvili.

Biarritz Olympique: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Seremaļa Burotu, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Benoīt Baby, 10 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Raphael Lakafia, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Magnus Lund, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 Erik Lund, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Arnaud Heguy, 1 Fabien Barcella.
Replacements: 16 Benoit August , 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Eugene van Staden, 19 Thibault Dubarry, 20 Benoit Guyot, 21 Julien Peyrelongue, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Aled Brew.

Results last season: Clermont won 41-0 at home; Biarritz won 15-14 at home
Prediction: Clermont at home? Clermont by ten points.
Date: Friday, October 26
Venue:Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin
Kick-off: 20.40 (18.40 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon

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