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Clermont v Ulster: Frustrated French are out to strike back, warns ace Fofana

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

By Jonathan Bradley

After suffering their first European defeat of the campaign in Belfast last week, Clermont's Wesley Fofana has said there has been "no sulking" from the squad as they prepare to welcome Ulster to the Stade Marcel Michelin for tomorrow's return match (3.05pm kick-off).

The side from the Auvergne sit top of their domestic table, four points clear of their nearest challengers, and things were going just as smooth in Europe before visiting Kingspan Stadium.

But the 39-32 defeat, which brought Les Kiss' men right back into the mix in Pool Five, ended the two-time runners-up's perfect record in this year's competition.

Fofana, though, thinks any mistakes made a week ago can easily be fixed in time for the rematch.

"We must not make a knee-jerk reaction," said the star French centre.

"We must all work together while remaining calm.

"These are errors that will erase quite easily with the group we have.

"We are quite pragmatic in attack and must continue this way, by erasing defensive errors. We really want to attack and move the opposing teams, and it works well."

Despite the defeat, Fofana was a stand-out performer in the game a week ago, carving through Ulster's midfield and making more metres than anyone in the game apart from opposing full-back Charles Piutau.

However, the 28-year-old had little interest in discussing his own contribution to what was ultimately a losing effort.

"It was a little frustrating," he admitted.

"There was room to do a little better. But we will not sulk after picking up these two (bonus) points that we have brought back to the Stade Marcel Michelin.

"I feel very good at the moment, but I do not really want to talk about my individual performances. It's more the fact of being on top form for the team that interests me particularly."

And looking now at the pool table, those two points Fofana speaks of certainly look ominous.

The double bonus means Clermont remain in charge of proceedings, three points ahead of both Ulster and Bordeaux-Begles, who face Exeter Chiefs this afternoon and will expect another victory.

And yet, knowing that last week's loss has eradicated their margin for error, Fofana envisages the battle for a quarter-final place that will rage through rounds five and six next month.

"After last weekend's matches, Ulster put themselves in a good position and we saw that Bordeaux also revived their chances by winning in England," he said.

"It's going to be tight to the end and it's up to us to do whatever it takes."

While Clermont's side is again packed full of stars, Fofana is sure to be the danger man once more with Ulster all too aware that they must contain him in a more effective manner than last weekend.

Wing Tommy Bowe, who will be relied upon to provide both cover and a sure hand underneath the high ball from his position in the back-three, says the visitors must make life more difficult for the 44-times capped international.

"He was someone we did our homework on, we knew he was going to be a difficult guy," said Bowe. "He's got a great range of skills, he's got an incredible fend, he likes to spin and he's powerful so he's a serious threat.

"But we're disappointed we didn't contain him as much as we should have.

"In the second half we did a little bit, but we gave him a lot of space and allowed him to show the class he has. Again this weekend he'll be excited to get the ball in hand and unless we put him under more pressure he'll hurt us."

Belfast Telegraph


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