Never let it be said that the French don’t do hyperbole. Above the match analysis and the regulation quotes, the rugby newspaper Midi-Olympique has chosen to headline Clermont’s trip to Thomond Park: "Aux Portes de l’Enfer", At the Gates of Hell.
Joe Schmidt hadn’t a word of French when he pitched up in the Massif Central town of Clermont-Ferrand back in 2007, but the Kiwi coach was a quick learner and he’s still known for dropping the odd peu de Francais into his vocabulary on those weeks when the opposition is of a Gallic flavour.
The journey from Clermont-Ferrand to Montpellier takes just over three hours on the A75. It is a fairly spectacular drive, across the Massif Central, down into valleys and rising sharply over the next mountains in a landscape shaped by volcanoes.
Clermont’s Stade Marcel Michelin, with its high-banked tiers packed with vociferous supporters, has earned a reputation as European rugby’s most robust fortress but Isa Nacewa believes Leinster will bring their own 16th man to France next Sunday.
Maybe the GAA can learn a thing or two from rugby –- like kicking off its premier competition with a bang. While the summer Championships often sleepwalk into summer, the Heineken Cup starts this weekend with heavyweight collisions. Alan Good looks ahead.