Nick Abendanon inspires Clermont Auvergne rout

Clermont Auvergne 27 Northampton Saints 5: Nick Abendanon hopes his stellar evening against Northampton has offered England additional reason to soften their stance on selecting overseas-based players.

Nick Abendanon inspires Clermont Auvergne rout

Abendanon was spellbinding as Clermont cruised into the semi-finals of Europe by dismantling the Aviva Premiership champions and runaway leaders at a hostile Stade Marcel-Michelin.

The result was decided by half-time as Clermont, with a mixture of forward supremacy and three-quarter devilry, amassed a 27-0 lead. Wing Noa Nakaitaci claimed two tries and France team-mate Wesley Fofana and former Bath full-back Abendanon also crossed.

It took until the 68th minute for Northampton to register their first and only points through a try by Alex Walter.

It is still 28-year-old Abendanon’s debut season in the Massif Central after eight years at Bath, but his graceful running from full-back has hastened the downfall of Sale, Saracens and now Northampton in the Champions Cup.

On the form displayed at the highest level of European club rugby, Abendanon deserves to be judged alongside Mike Brown, the Red Rose’s current incumbent in the No.15 jersey.

Calls for England to temporarily abandon their policy of picking players in the Top 14 in time for this autumn’s global showpiece have to date been inspired only by the brilliance of Toulon back row Steffon Armitage, but on Saturday night Abendanon widened the debate.

“I’d love to get a call from (England head coach) Stuart Lancaster over the summer, but I’m not counting on it because they’ve got that rule in place,” Abendanon said.

“I understand the reasons for the rule and in my heart I knew when I came to France, my England career was probably over. But special dispensation for the World Cup? Well, if I stay injury-free, keep playing some good rugby, maybe it’s a possibility.”

While Clermont swagger into the semi-finals of Europe and the final straight of their challenge for the Top 14 title, Northampton must lick their wounds. Ten points separate them from second place Saracens with four regular matches remaining and captain Dylan Hartley is adamant the defence of their Premiership crown will not collapse in response to a belief-sapping loss in central France.

“That wasn’t the worst day I’ve ever had in Europe. I’ve had plenty of shockers. Across the board we didn’t perform. It’s not like a few individuals didn’t play well,” Hartley said.

“I’m not worried about this defeat having an impact on the rest of our season. We’ve got a big task next weekend against Exeter, a form side, away from home. We’ve got to bounce back pretty quickly.”

CLERMONT AUVERGNE: Abendanon, Nakaitaci, Davies, Fofana, Nalaga, James, Radosavljevic, Debaty, Kayser, Zirakashvili, Cudmore, Vahaamahina, Chouly, Bonnaire, Lee.

Replacements: Delany for Abendanon (71), Rougerie for Fofana (61), Lacrampe for Radosavljevic (71), Domingo for Debaty (55), Ulugia for Kayser (63), Ric for Zirakashvili (63), Pierre for Cudmore (63).

NORTHAMPTON: Wilson, K. Pisi, G. Pisi, Burrell, Elliott, Myler, L. Dickson, Corbisiero, Hartley, Ma’afu, Manoa, Lawes, Wood, Clark, S. Dickinson.

Replacements: Tuala for Wilson (59), Stephenson for G. Pisi (73), Fotuali’i for L. Dickson (52), A. Waller for Corbisiero (55), Haywood for Hartley (61), Denman for Ma’afu (55), C. Day for Lawes (41), Fisher for S. Dickinson (55)

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