Addison wary of Clermont’s deadly trio

Addison wary of Clermont’s deadly trio
Will Addison.

Before Ulster start getting ahead of themselves with giddy thoughts about a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup this season, beware the Clermont back three.

That is the timely warning from full-back Will Addison who expects the French side to kick less and be a lot more formidable at the Marcel Michelin today than they were in Belfast two months ago.

Pull off an away win and Ulster will be through to the knockout stages with a game to spare but not too many teams go to Clermont and win and Addison is full of admiration for a lethal backfield combination of Damien Penaud, Alivereti Raka and David Abendanon.

“He has skinned me plenty of times!” says Addison, who came up against the former Bath player many times while he was at Sale.

“You’ve got to be ready for someone like him. He’s great on counter-attack, elusive, great kicking game, great under the high ball.

“He probably didn’t have his best game when we played them here, so he’ll probably be looking to rectify that this weekend.”

That could be said about Clermont in general. They lost 18-13 at Kingspan Stadium in November yet despite not being anywhere neat their best they still picked up a losing bonus point, which may be crucial when the pool stages are completed next weekend.

Ulster have made two changes, both in the back-row, from the big home win over Munster last weekend with Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee recalled from illness and injury respectively.

Clermont have brought in the brilliant Morgan Parra to make his 250th appearance for the club. In Belfast they opted for wily Scot Greig Laidlaw at scrum-half but Parra’s inclusion suggests it will be an open game.

Addison insists: “We enjoy it when it’s open.”

“Clermont are notorious for playing an open brand of rugby, they attack from deep and that probably harks back to when Joe (Schmidt) was there.

“We’re looking forward to whatever comes our way. They’ve got some serious talent.

“You look at their wingers, someone like Raka who has been unbelievable in the World Cup and since, Damian Penaud is probably the best young player in the country. That’s the challenge.”

Ulster are well aware of the mountain facing them and at out-half they have the box of tricks that is Camille Lopez, someone Addison hails as having “the best left foot in France”.

Since he’s moved over from England, Addison has noticed the importance the Irish teams attach to European competition. It is revered as the zenith of club rugby here, which is usually not the case in most English Premiership clubs, and he likes it.

“It’s something that, when I initially mooted the move to (Dwayne) Peely, he said the European (Cup) is treated so differently over here.

“Obviously the PRO14 is our bread and butter, but there’s definitely a different intangible feel about the place in a European week, there is a real electricity about everything we do day to day in a European week.

It is a buzz that I find infectious and absolutely loved from minute one against Leicester at home last year. It’s special.

“Obviously having won the competition in ‘99, it’s something we hold dear in this particular place.

“It’s a special thing, but it’s only special if you get the wins, and we’re looking to get an away win at the weekend.”

Ulster have not enjoyed a home quarter-final since 2014 when they qualified as top seeds, but lost at home to Saracens. “We want a home quarter — not just for us but our fans,” Addison said.

“Our aim is to go unbeaten and you do that by taking each game as it comes and there’s no bigger game than playing one of the giants like Clermont.”

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