Sexton ready for toughest test
Jonathan Sexton knows that Leinster's bid to establish a Dublin dynasty on the Heineken Cup faces the toughest possible challenge in Sunday's semi-final showdown with Clermont Auvergne.
Leinster are bidding to become only the second team ever to win back-to-back European titles, after Leicester in 2001 and 2002, and the first to claim three crowns in four seasons. But standing opposite them in Bordeaux will be Clermont Auvergne, the French standard-bearers.
"We know this will be the toughest test we have ever faced," Sexton said.
"Toulouse a couple of years ago was tough, we think this is going to be even tougher.
"They have such a good squad. Our coach (Joe Schmidt) knows how good they are. It is going to be a really big battle. It is not easy going to France and getting a win.
"We are thinking of it as our final because it's our next game. There is a lot of nervousness but everyone is pretty excited as well.
"We have to play our best to get a result."
Schmidt knows Clermont's qualities because he helped coach them to the French Top 14 title before moving to Leinster.
But any advantage of inside information is bound to be cancelled out by the presence of Nathan Hines in the Clermont second row, 11 months after he helped Leinster win the Heineken Cup.
"He is still a mate although we are putting that on hold for the week," Sexton added. "We know the type of threat he is going to bring, he gave this club so much in the years he was here. We want to beat him this weekend."