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Easterby targets Clermont upset

Scarlets coach Simon Easterby believes his side are capable of causing a major upset as the Welsh region try to end European rugby's most formidable home record at Clermont Auvergne.

The Scarlets currently sit top of Heineken Cup Pool Four after a thrilling win over Harlequins and a draw with Racing Metro.

Clermont, beaten finalists last season, have yet to really hit their stride, but the back-to-back December fixtures offer them a chance to stamp their authority on the pool.

They will fancy their chances of doing so, particularly on their own Stade Marcel-Michelin patch on Saturday.

The French club are unbeaten in 67 games at their home fortress, including 16 consecutive victories in the Heineken Cup.

The sides faced each other last season, with the Scarlets being soundly beaten both times.

But Easterby feels his side have what it takes to produce a very different result this time.

He said: "It is a real challenge but one that the team is ready and up for. Our history in Europe against French teams shows we can cause an upset.

"The camp is in a good frame of mind and energy and spirits are running high after a good week's training.

"It's unquestionably one of the best home records of any sporting team in the world. It's a phenomenal place to go and play rugby, Clermont at home are pretty difficult to beat.

"I think you have to go there with a positive mindset, if you go there trying to avoid a beating then that's exactly what you'll get. We've worked hard this week on things we can get right in our game but also working hard to prevent their momentum.

"We're really positive about going there, it's a phenomenal challenge but records are there to be broken. It's a great contest for the players and for us as a young coaching group and a fantastic opportunity for us all to be a part of."

If the Scarlets are to cause an upset they will have to do it without star centre Jonathan Davies, flanker Rob McCusker and prop Phil John, who are all out injured.

But Wales internationals Liam Williams, Scott Williams, Rhys Priestland, Emyr Phillips and Samson Lee all start.

Harlequins travel to face Racing Metro in the other Pool Four fixture as they look to move off the bottom.

Saturday's other stand-out fixture sees a re-run of the memorable 2011 final as Northampton and Leinster meet at Franklin's Gardens.

The Irish side fought back from 22-6 down to take the trophy in a classic Millennium Stadium final, and Saints will be looking for revenge against the unbeaten Pool One leaders.

However, the Aviva Premiership club will be without George Pisi, Ben Foden, Jamie Elliott, James Wilson and Kahn Fotuali'i behind the scrum through a mixture of suspension and injury.

But fly-half Stephen Myler insists their absence is no excuse for Northampton.

"We may need to alter a few things but it's something we feel capable of and you have to deal with it," he told

"We feel we're in a strong position and that we've got players who can come in and are doing a good job. We know what a quality side Leinster are. We're really excited. It's a good test for us."

Elsewhere, holders Toulon will look to bounce back from their surprise defeat to Cardiff Blues in October when they travel to face Exeter in Pool Two.

In Pool Three, Saracens will be targeting a bonus-point win at Italian minnows Zebre, while Ulster and Treviso clash in Pool Five at Ravenhill.


From Belfast Telegraph