Cotter has faith in quality replacements

Clermont Auvergne coach Vern Cotter yesterday played down the loss of his captain Aurelien Rougerie and flanker Gerhard Vosloo for today’s Heineken Cup semi-final.

Centre Rougerie has failed to recover from a hamstring injury picked up in last weekend’s 59th successive home win at Stade Marcel Michelin when Top 14 champions Toulouse were put to the sword.

South Africa Vosloo has also been ruled out with a hamstring injury, but the extent of the squad which Cotter has assembled is illustrated by the quality of the replacements.

Former All Black Regan King comes in for Clermont native Rougerie while French international Damien Chouly steps in for Vosloo.

“We know what we have done to get here and we know what we have to do to get to the next step. We have the players to do it and the potential. We definitely have the means to go all the way.

“The way it is at this time of the year you have to rotate your teams a little bit and we’ve been doing that recently,” said Cotter.

Rain is forecast for today’s showdown at Stade de la Mosson but Cotter said his side will adapt.

“We’re not afraid of the rain, just a question of adapting to the conditions. Given the number of days that Munster would play in these conditions in Ireland, it’s possibly an advantage for them.”

The semi-final was still not sold out yesterday evening — around 600 tickets remained to be sold in the 32,000 capacity Stade de la Mosson — with Clermont bringing 20,000 fans and 6,000 Munster supporters expected.

Julien Bonnaire takes over the captaincy from Rougerie and he said yesterday Clermont had improved considerably from the side defeated in last year’s semi-final by Leinster in Bordeaux.

“We have more confidence and more maturity. I definitely feel I’m fresher than I was at this time last year. The regular rotation in our squad has helped enormously.

“This is effectively a home match, we will have huge support. That is important for us,” said Bonnaire.

Clermont are currently leading the Top 14 but Cotter admitted doing a domestic and European was extremely difficult. “I think it’s virtually impossible. The last three matches we play domestically are at a really high level. It is a serious fixture list, but that still doesn’t prevent us from targeting each match as it comes.”

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