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Wounded animal Clermont will be on the hunt for revenge, warns Kiss

Clermont v Ulster, Champions Cup Pool Five: Stade Marcel-Michelin, Sunday, 3.05 pm

By Jonathan Bradley

It's been a popular expression in Irish rugby ever since the national side overcame the All Blacks last month, but Les Kiss has warned Ulster that they have "poked the bear" with their five-try 39-32 victory over Clermont on Saturday.

As per the annual scheduling of what is now called the Champions Cup, those teams who suffer defeat in the first European tussles of this block have an immediate chance for revenge with the reverse fixtures occurring just a week later.

And so, having considerably boosted their hopes of returning to the quarter-finals of the northern hemisphere's elite competition for the first time since 2014 over the weekend, Ulster must now negotiate a trip to the Stade Marcel Michelin on Sunday to face a Clermont side whose pain over their Belfast loss remains very much fresh.

With Ulster leading in the second half, there were a number of moments where Clermont players displayed their dissatisfaction, both at each other and the opposition, and Kiss believes such frustrations will only fuel their collective fire this weekend.

"They're a passionate side," said the Australian of this weekend's hosts. "Morgan Parra and a few of the boys were a little bit hurt by the fact that they got done here.

"Those spiky moments, they happen. They're good theatre for the crowd but nothing untoward happened at all and we just got on with the game.

"I'd expect nothing less in terms of what we do here at Kingspan.

"But no matter what, it's going to be a massive match now (on Sunday)."

Ulster have produced a clean sweep in European back-to-backs on just four occasions, and two of those came against Italian opposition in the shape of Treviso and Aironi.

Indeed, despite notably accounting for Toulouse home and away last year, since such a structure was introduced for the 1999-2000 season, one win from two has been overwhelmingly more frequent for the province, occurring in 11 out of 17 seasons.

If Ulster are to avoid another split this year, then Kiss believes his side will need an even better performance than they produced in their thrilling triumph on Saturday.

Clermont still control the pool, three points ahead of both Ulster and Bordeaux, who beat Exeter on Sunday.

And while their home record is not as fearsome as it once was, the Stade Marcel Michelin remains one of the toughest places to travel in club rugby.

Les Jaunards once went 77 games unbeaten at the venue and, while that run came to an end at the hands of Castres in 2014, Bordeaux's Champions Cup win there last year was just the fifth from a visitor in 13 European campaigns.

"Overall, (Saturday) certainly has put a different colour on the pool, but it is only part of a job done," said Kiss.

"I would say we've to go over there and do our best and see if we can reshape things again.

"The truth is they are in charge of it still. That is the bottom line. We have to regroup and make sure we do the right things during the week.

"We'll shift some of our focus in our game plan to make sure we can get the leverage where we think we can.

"(Saturday) was a good step forward from the week before but, although we can take confidence from it, it still won't do the job next time.

"That's important for us to recognise. There's things that we need to get in front of before going against that bear that we've poked really."

While Robbie Diack and Stuart McCloskey left the game early on Saturday, more will be known on their status for the return come tomorrow.

The experienced duo of Franco van der Merwe and Roger Wilson do, however, look like being available.

"They came through the week better so they may be available to us," revealed Kiss.

"It's always a tough one to go home and away to a big team.

"How we do that in terms of resources, we'll wait and see but it's good to maybe have those two coming back."

Less likely, it would appear at present, are the returns of Irish internationals Andrew Trimble, Craig Gilroy and Stuart Olding who have foot, lower leg and hamstring problems respectively.

"It's 50/50 at best between Trimby, Gilly and Stu," Kiss added. "It is going to take a squad to do a job against them home and away and we have a big one the following week (against Connacht in the PRO12).

"This is the time of year when it matters, that you use that squad as best you can."

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