Franck Azéma's men are used to European finals (they have participated in 8 of them in the last 10 seasons) and even if the context and the format of the competition have changed radically due to this season placed under the sign of Covid, the scent of the first knockout match whets the appetite of the Auvergne group. Concentrated and impatient before their trip to the north of England, the "yellow and blue" are preparing for a tough confrontation against a Wasps team full of talent.
No one is fooled, the success on the turf of the Stade Français is far from a reference match. But it has the merit of building on a victory and a strengthened position in the standings which allows the Auvergne team to look forward to the European competition that they will face in Coventry on Saturday. The victory against Paris is very, very important," insists the Clermont-Ferrand coach, "not only in terms of the score but also in terms of the cohesion of the group. We needed to validate the work done at our training camp in Bugeat by starting with a success in this final stage where we will only have big games to play. "Last week's match was already very much like an eliminatory match," added Clermont-Ferrand captain Camille Lopez. This week we are really getting into the swing of things and we have to erase the mistakes we made in Paris to get a better grasp of our game," said Lopez, "and we'll have to do it again. "
The Clermont-Ferrand captain's words are reminiscent of the first few minutes of the game, when the Parisians dominated the ruck phases and had to wait several minutes for the Clermont-Ferranders to regain their fluidity. To put it simply," Camille continued, "we took too long to get into this match. On an artificial pitch and under a beautiful sun, we probably thought it would be nice to play. Rugby doesn't work like that! You have to remember to put your head down and be rigorous on the foundations...". The Auvergnats paid to learn by undergoing the Parisian law in the ruck phases in particular. "It's a good reminder," said the Auvergne opener. "The Wasps also have players who attack the rucks very hard and defend very aggressively. "An analysis that continues with coach Franck Azéma. "The Wasps have a very British inspiration with a lot of challenges, physical intensity and big ball carriers on which they rely to destabilise opposing defences. Their position in the rankings doesn't really reveal their level. They weren't English Championship finalists for nothing. They have since had quite a few reshuffles in the team due to Covid or selections but remain very strong opponents. "
"The finals are when you experience the greatest emotions! "
Camille Lopez has, as he does every week, participated in the elaboration of the strategic plan that his men will put in place to counter the strengths of the English, but knows full well that the success of this plan depends, above all, on the performance of his team. "The worst enemy of Clermont is often itself. It is up to us to keep our ambitions and our requirements. Our club, our city and our region have a strong culture and a special history with the European Cup, and we all want to nurture great ambitions. "And regardless of the fact that the competition has been reshuffled, transformed or even reorganised with only two pool fixtures being played (a win in Bristol and a home defeat to Munster) to reach these unprecedented round of 16, the Clermont-Ferrand fly-half dismisses the argument out of hand. "We have been integrated into these finals and we are not going to give up our place. Our objective is clear: to go for the qualification. "