Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Cockerill ready for Clermont tussle

Richard Cockerill insists Clermont's intimidating home record offers Leicester the chance to make history when the European heavyweights clash in Saturday's Heineken Cup quarter-final.

The 2013 beaten finalists have amassed 74 consecutive victories at the Stade Marcel Michelin in a sequence dating back to 2009 and are overwhelming favourites to defeat the Tigers.

Cockerill has invoked the spirit of 2007 when Leicester became the first Heineken Cup team to storm Munster's Thomond Park stronghold to inspire their passage into the semi-finals.

And having been part of the Tigers side that established a 57-game unbeaten run from 1997 to 2002, the club's director of rugby knows that level of home dominance can also be a burden.

"We're going there with the mindset that it's a great opportunity for us," Cockerill said.

"It's probably the toughest place to go for a quarter-final, but it gives us the chance to make some history with their home record.

"It's like going to Thomond Park in 2007. They will lose that record at some point, why can't it be on Saturday at 5pm? Like all sides they're vulnerable on their day.

"For once the expectation isn't on us. We're expected to get beaten so we can go there with the shackles off.

"We'll throw everything at them and see where we get to. If we win it would be a huge result in the history of the club.

"With a record like theirs sometimes you worry more about not losing than winning, getting through it rather than performing.

"Montpellier is the top team in the Top 14 and we beat them home and away in the pool stages. Maybe that's a good omen for us."

Cockerill spent two years at Clermont from 2002-04 when the club was known as Montferrand, providing him with an insight into the mindset of an industrial city situated in heart of France.

Clermont was established by Marcel Michelin, son of the founder of Michelin, and the city remains the global headquarters for the tyre manufacturer that was set up in 1888.

"Clermont's a little bit like Leicester.....people go there thinking 'it's Leicester, it's not a great place, it's a horrible place to go'. The French see Clermont in the same way," Cockerill said.

"The fans are fanatical and all work in the Michelin tyre factory. And if you've ever been in there you're glad to get out of it and watch rugby.

"It's a working-class place that loves it's sport and the noise for an 18,000 seater stadium is immense.

"The club is built around the community and is a very important part of the community. There are two things in Clermont and that's tyres and rugby."

Cockerill believes the clubs also share common ground in their wage structures.

"They're a different club to now, they tried to buy success when I was there. Now they're built on a sound foundation," he said.

"To hear a French club say they won't take a player because he's asking for too much money is unheard of.

"But Clermont have their pay structure and people have to fit into that. You buy into what Clermont do or you leave.

"Their approach to money will give them some longevity. If you got o Clermont it's for all reason - rugby and being part of the community.

"It's about what you can give, not just what you can get. People don't just go there for the money like they would to some other clubs in France.

"That's a bit like Leicester. You come to Leicester for the rugby, you don't come for the beach or the mountains or the money."

Cockerill indicated that Welshman Owen Williams is likely to continue at fly-half with club captain Toby Flood remaining on the bench.

British and Irish Lions lock Geoff Parling is a "week or two" away from returning from his shoulder injury, while flanker Tom Croft is unlikely to play again this season.


From Belfast Telegraph