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Are the wheels falling off at Clermont Auvergne?

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Kingshu
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Are the wheels falling off at Clermont Auvergne? Empty Are the wheels falling off at Clermont Auvergne?

Post by Artful_Dodger Wed 29 May - 17:40

Vern Cotter has just announced that he has offered to resign from Clermont early to join Scotland. The deal with Scotland has been reported to start next June but as some suspected Cotter seems to want to link up immediately. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-union/22707895) This comes after Cotter lambasted the Clermont players and singled out Brock James for their performances in the Heineken Cup final against Toulon and in the Top14 semi-final against Castres. Regarding Brock James performance in the HC final he said "He (James) is responsible on the pitch for the direction of the game and we were not very happy with him in the match with Toulon," explained Cotter.

Furthermore he told French newspaper La Montagne that "Hard choices need to be made," including compromising the clubs policy of developing young talent and instead signing top foreign players who could become leaders on the field. The players confidence is said to be shattered after the defeat to Toulon with some linking this to the performance and shock defeat to Castres. Cotter himself commented "With regard to the semi-final loss to Castres, well, I believe we underestimated the impact of the defeat to Toulon."

So from aiming for a HC Top14 double Clermont now finish the season without any silverware and are most likely now looking for a new Head Coach who can start immediately. Whilst it is being reported that he "has offered" to resign I would take from it that he now see's his job at Clermont as being over and wants out. With easily one of the most powerful squads in Europe Clermont have only a single Top14 title to show for the last 7 years endeavour under Cotter. In the same period of time the teams Clermont would be seen to be on a par with have won an awful lot more. Such as Leinster with 3 HC's, 1 Amlin and 1 Rabo Direct Pro 12 title. Similarly Toulouse have continued to add to their collection both domestically and in Europe in that time frame, Munster have won two HC's and two Rabo titles in that time frame and Toulon are now aiming for the HC Top14 double which Clermont would have been aiming for.

In effect therefore, Clermont are gross underachievers compared to the teams which they are supposed to be on a par with. In fact many have said that Clermont are the best in Europe over this period but have only one Top14 title to their name. In the 7 year period mentioned they have lost Joe Schmidt who has gone on to win two HC's and take the Ireland head coach job and now have lost Cotter who has signed off by heavily criticising the Clermont players.

Is this the end of Clermont being one of the top sides in Europe or will they be able to bring in another coach who can achieve what Cotter failed to do with the same group of players? It would be a serious period of under achievement with the squad they have if their time at the top table only produces one Top14. End of an era already? Or will they bounce straight back next season?

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Post by Standulstermen Wed 29 May - 18:30

Did he not criticise Clermont for not signing more foreigners too and actually working to bring through academy players? Noves was at the same the other day.

(If so) it seems to me their coaching credentials are in question. Seems like 'as long as you let me buy all the best players I will win you trophies.' Anything short of that and it's not my fault.

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Post by Artful_Dodger Wed 29 May - 18:35

I agree...Cotter doesn't really inspire me. If I was a Scotland fan I wouldn't be over the moon with the way he is now ditching Clermont. If the result don't come for Scotland I wouldn't be surprised if hes off again.

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Post by yappysnap Wed 29 May - 18:36

Some times no matter how good a team and coach are a shake up is needed. New blood with that extra percentage or two can make all the difference at the top level.

Over reliance on foreigners is just silly but then from their perspective look at what Toulon are managing with all the foreigners, its an arms race and their falling behind.

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Post by yappysnap Wed 29 May - 18:38

Artful_Dodger wrote:I agree...Cotter doesn't really inspire me. If I was a Scotland fan I wouldn't be over the moon with the way he is now ditching Clermont. If the result don't come for Scotland I wouldn't be surprised if hes off again.

To be fair Clermont play amazing rugby,when they're on form its sensational. Issues are when James falls apart and with the pack not focussing. A coach can only do so much.

If I was Scotland I'd be over the moon, Cotter is a quality coach and will do well.

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Post by Standulstermen Wed 29 May - 18:42

yappysnap wrote:Some times no matter how good a team and coach are a shake up is needed. New blood with that extra percentage or two can make all the difference at the top level.

Over reliance on foreigners is just silly but then from their perspective look at what Toulon are managing with all the foreigners, its an arms race and their falling behind.

Look what Leinster achieved without masses of foreigners though yap. Good coaching and a few key signings as well as plenty of indigenous talent bought them 3 HECs an amlinn and a Pro12.

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Post by yappysnap Wed 29 May - 19:40

Leinster haven't played Toulon though... And lost to Clermont.

Seriously though I agree with you and to be fair that is what Clermont have tried, its just failed for one reason or another (fly half being a massive issue).

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Post by formerly known as Sam Wed 29 May - 20:41

Leinster have much better dibs on Irish talent than Clermont do on French players due to the 30ish pro teams in France. As such Clermont will always require more foreigners than Leinster. Let's not forget Leinster invested in bringing Cullen, Jennings and Elsom from across the seas in order to start their golden years.

Clermont have been desperate for a 10 for years, I do not understand why they have not invested in either a young talent and nurtured them through or a big name. The fact that they've had Skrella and James really is their own fault and undoing.

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Post by Artful_Dodger Wed 29 May - 20:50

formerly known as Sam wrote:Leinster have much better dibs on Irish talent than Clermont do on French players due to the 30ish pro teams in France. As such Clermont will always require more foreigners than Leinster. Let's not forget Leinster invested in bringing Cullen, Jennings and Elsom from across the seas in order to start their golden years.

Clermont have been desperate for a 10 for years, I do not understand why they have not invested in either a young talent and nurtured them through or a big name. The fact that they've had Skrella and James really is their own fault and undoing.

Its a common but massive misconception that Leinster just picked up Cullen and Jennings because they got good at Tigers. Cullen had over 70 caps for Leinster before going to Tigers and Jennings over 40. Both of them then had less than 40 caps at Tigers before returning to Leinster.

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Post by Artful_Dodger Wed 29 May - 21:17

With regard to my above post on Cotter. I was being a bit harsh, I think hes a good coach and is a good signing for Scotland. I just worry that Clermont haven't got over the finish line with him in charge. I think he'll have Scotland playing more structured and better attacking rugby, but worry that he might not be the right coach to see out results and win competitions.


Last edited by Artful_Dodger on Wed 29 May - 21:21; edited 1 time in total

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Post by AsLongAsBut100ofUs Wed 29 May - 21:19

Artful_Dodger wrote:I agree...Cotter doesn't really inspire me. If I was a Scotland fan I wouldn't be over the moon with the way he is now ditching Clermont. If the result don't come for Scotland I wouldn't be surprised if hes off again.

Yawn. Taught Schmidt everything he knows, Vern will be fine. Thanks for the concern

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Post by Artful_Dodger Wed 29 May - 21:20

AsLongAsBut100ofUs wrote:
Artful_Dodger wrote:I agree...Cotter doesn't really inspire me. If I was a Scotland fan I wouldn't be over the moon with the way he is now ditching Clermont. If the result don't come for Scotland I wouldn't be surprised if hes off again.

Yawn. Taught Schmidt everything he knows, Vern will be fine. Thanks for the concern

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Post by formerly known as Sam Wed 29 May - 21:25

They wouldn't have bothered re-signing them if they were crap at Tigers would they. Two ex-Leinster players who had international aspirations and were in good form.

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Post by Artful_Dodger Wed 29 May - 22:06

They may not have been crap at Tigers, but to compare them being signed by the club whose academy they came through and played most of their rugby for to the signing of Rocky Elsom is a bit silly really. They are home grown players.

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Post by profitius Wed 29 May - 22:49

I'd have to agree that Clermont have peaked. Looking at their age profile there are too many players well beyond the 30 mark.

Theres a big flaw in Cotter management skills. To win only 1 trophy in his time there is mystifying. Thats probably being a little harsh because he had to build the team which takes a few years so you could say 1 trophy in 5 years there.
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Post by Standulstermen Wed 29 May - 22:58

formerly known as Sam wrote:Leinster have much better dibs on Irish talent than Clermont do on French players due to the 30ish pro teams in France. As such Clermont will always require more foreigners than Leinster. Let's not forget Leinster invested in bringing Cullen, Jennings and Elsom from across the seas in order to start their golden years.

Clermont have been desperate for a 10 for years, I do not understand why they have not invested in either a young talent and nurtured them through or a big name. The fact that they've had Skrella and James really is their own fault and undoing.

I don't begrudge Clermont more foreigner but they bloody well have more. 8 of their starters in the final if I recall not to mention regan king, paulo on the bench. To ask for more is a bit ridiculous. The governing body in France needs to get its house in order because we are seeing the negative effects of this at international level already

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Post by Notch Wed 29 May - 23:18

I really fear its going to spoil the Six Nations in that I can only see the French national team getting worse and worse. The first time Italy beat France it was a shock, the second time it was also a bit of a shock but increasingly France may be slipping from perennial contenders to a mid-table side with occasional good years whilst Italy get better.

It also seems that youth coaching in France is falling behind and Academies aren't producing very well rounded players in terms of skills. Rather than trying to improve their Academies or coaching at grassroots many clubs are just throwing more and more of their budget into big name signings.

It's very sad to hear Toulouse and Clermont changing their strategy of building their team around French internationals, but this is what they're up against now with Toulon and now Montpellier unveiling large numbers of big name foreigners.
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Post by LeinsterFan4life Thu 30 May - 0:10

Its beginning to get a lot like soccer now. Something needs to be done immediately.

French internationals are becoming unattractive in their own league!!

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Post by Intotouch Thu 30 May - 1:57

Clermont will be fine. A change of coach may be enough if they get the right man in to lift the squad. Their confidence may be damaged but that can be something that they get over.

I sort of agree with him about James though. Someone more consistent would have helped them hugely.

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Post by George Carlin Thu 30 May - 7:53

I am not doubting Cotter's bona fides when he raised this concern. A bit of balance is needed here because there's been a lot of sniffyness about Cotter on these and other boards. Some facts might help:

1. Cotter has been playing rugby, coaching and living in France for the best part of 25 years. That's a big commitment to the country and a huge amount of knowledge about the country's systems and young players. The guy knows what he's talking about when he expresses a concern.

2. Cotter has been at Clermont for 7 years, which makes him one of the longest serving Super 14 coaches. I think that only the legendary Guy Noves has been in a single role for longer. Can we at least agree that commitment to a cause and contract are not historical problems for him?

3. For about 5 years until Cotter joined in 2006, Clermont (then AS Montferrand) were really not a good side. They were mid table strugglers and regular cannon fodder for the big boys like Toulouse and Stade. Cotter arriving changed everything for them and (based on what my lot in Aurillac tell me) I don't think that anyone would claim their resurgence in the 2000s was due to any reason other than Cotter.

4. His record with spotting talent and bringing it on is good - Fofana, Lapandry, Ric, Floch and Vermeulen all came through the junior/youth teams and he had the nous to spot a young Julien Bonnaire and bring him with him to Clermont. He was also key in bringing in foreign players to steady the ship like Stanley, Sivi and King.

The fact that his views have upset his club head is a completely different thing as to whether he is suitable to coach a national team. Dear god, if I had a quid for every time Cockerill or Steve Diamond upset someone...
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Post by SecretFly Thu 30 May - 9:33

You might call it sniffyness, but you might also just call it different ways of looking at the same coach.
And given that some of us have had reservations about Cotter's Clermont for quite a time, some of us have been consistently 'sniffy' about him Wink (not just since he was declared Scotland's future coach)

Anyway, as I've said before, he still has the potential to be a great signing for Scotland. He was certainly higher on my list of alternatives to Schmidt than many of the others mentioned. The Scottish players will respond positively to him, I'm sure. As Intotouch said here, sometimes a change is just needed regardless of a team's natural ability or a coach's natural leadership qualities. So Clermont might need the change of coach now and Cotter might enjoy the freshness of having a new group of players to work on.

But two things he should be careful of in his future role.
One: isolating and publicaly blaming certain players for poor performances.
Two: believing that all shortfalls in player depth should and can be bought in from outside at the right price.

Neither of those two philosophies will work at International level.

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Post by red_stag Thu 30 May - 9:56

There is no excuse in terms of the squad available to him. The only team I could think of with that level of depth is Toulon.

They have loads of foreigners. They bought the two tough locks in Jamie Cudmore and Nathan Hines. They bought an all foreign back three in Nalaga, Lee Byrne and Sivivatu. Gerhard Vosloo and Davit Zirakashvili are also key men for the pack. And then you have the likes of Regan King, Benson Stanley, Gavin Williams to cover when their French centres are away. They have got both Mike Delaney and Brock James as foreign cover at flyhalf.

They were able to buy in French internationals like David Skrela, Morgan Parra, Ben Kaysar, Julien Pierre and Julien Bonnaire.

In total there are THIRTY TWO international players in Clermonts team. What worries me above all else is his implication that he needs to be able to sign better quality players to succeeed.

He already has top class French AND international players.

Looking at the Clermont team they actually have the depth for both a French XV and a Foreign XV.

French XV:

01 Thomas Domingo
02 Benjamen Kayser
03 Vincent Debaty
04 Loic Jacquet
05 Julien Pierre
06 Alexandre Lapandry
07 Julien Bonnaire
08 Damien Chouly
09 Morgan Parra
10 David Skrela
11 Julien Malzieu
12 Wesley Fofana
13 Aurelien Rougerie
14 Noa Nakaitaci
15 Anthony Floch

That team has a full 15 French internationals on it.

However you could just as easily go with a Foreign XV:

01 Davit Zirakashvili (Georgia)
02 Ti’i Paulo (Samoa)
03 Daniel Kotze (South Africa)
04 Nathan Hines (Scotland)
05 Jamie Cudmore (Canada)
06 Julien Bardy (Portugal)
07 Gerhard Vosloo (South Africa)
08 Vito Kolelishvili (Georgia)
09 Kevin Senio (New Zealand)
10 Brock James (Australia)
11 Napoleon Nalaga (Fiji)
12 Benson Stanley (New Zealand)
13 Regan King (New Zealand)
14 Sitiveni Sivivatu (New Zealand)
15 Lee Byrne (Wales)

Another team with 15 foreign internationals on it.

That is incredible. There are 32 players in the Clermont squad to have played international rugby.

Lack of depth is not a reason for Clermonts consistent inability to deliver trophies.
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Post by beshocked Thu 30 May - 10:35

No I don't think the wheels have come off. Clermont still have a very strong side. Throughout their history they have struggled on the mental side in the big games. Not unlike my own side. Some teams find it harder to win that elusive silverware than others.


Clermont need to bring in a DOR who knows how to win the big tournaments.

Toulon brought in Bernard Laporte who won them the HC cup.

Clermont need a similar canny operator in my opinion.

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Post by George Carlin Thu 30 May - 10:50

That's true Staggy but it doesn't seem like balanced criticism to me.

It's easy to look at a squad like that and claim that trophies should automatically follow but it's not true to suggest that this is a unique set-up when looking at the best in Europe or one that's based upon unparalleled financial privilege.

Let's look at the disappointments:

A. Top 14
9 June 2007
Stade Français 23–18 ASM Clermont Auvergne

28 June 2008
Stade Toulousain 26–20 ASM Clermont Auvergne

6 June 2009
USA Perpignan 22–13 ASM Clermont Auvergne

B. Heineken Cup
18 May 2013
RC Toulon 16-15 ASM Clermont Auvergne

Now compare this against team's budgets - let's take 2011–2012 because I have numbers for that but the spending pattern has been similar since professionalism in the early 2000s. There are 4 clubs which had a budget over 20 millions euros: Toulouse (E33m), Clermont (E24m), Racing Metro (E22m), Stade Francais (E21m).

Looking at one Top 14 win, three Top 14 runners up slots and one Heineken Cup runners up slot in Cotter's 7 years in charge - how can you honestly say that it's not a competitive performance given (a) the competition and (b) how far the club came from the mess that it was in in when he inherited it?

Just doesn't make sense to brand the whole thing a disappointment. You would be better asking why Racing Metro or Stade delivered so little over the same period for a comparable investment. Or how the feic Leinster managed to land 3 Heineken Cups based on their more limited resources over the same period.

If Cotter's side hadn't reached the finals that I mentioned above or hadn't had a sniff of Heineken Cup success over the piece then I would agree with you but that's not the case so I don't think that it's reasonable to conclude that Cotter's management should have delivered more titles. I don't think that Clermont over-performed in the later years but I don't think that given the competition they under-performed either.

How can you simultaneously acknowledge that a coach has built a squad of amazing talent in a competitive market and then criticise them for not winning trophies? The club wouldn't be in a position where that was even possible without the coaching and management team. The point of assessing a coach is not just what they've won - it's also how far they took the raw material they inherited in the first place.

David Moyes wouldn't be Alex Ferguson's successor if you were only looking at what he's actually won.
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Post by SecretFly Thu 30 May - 10:59

A side struggling with mentality issues might stretch for a certain duration. But over a long term history and given the players that Clermont have bought in (who lack nothing in mentality and are bred or born winners many of them), no I can't see it as a mentality issue.

Coaching, too much competition for places, personality conflicts probably lurking beneath the public sheen of everything is fine. But not the fear of winning.

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Post by Kingshu Thu 30 May - 11:01

Lets be fair, we've heard the Welsh region fans complain that the National team take thier players to much, and now it appears French internatioals are a bit of a hinderance to French team.

It's just building to a head, where a gobal season is whats required, so internationals do not run at same time as leauges are played. Its been building and building over the years, and now the big French clubs have added thier voice I think its something the NH Unions wil really have to have a look at.


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Post by SecretFly Thu 30 May - 11:14

Why is there so many excuses though for simply playing badly?

Clermont were almost found out by a not exactly purringly sweet Munster. That had nothing to do with when Internationals are played, what French Internationals play where and when, a fragile winning mentality or any of the myriad of reasons that now crop up when sides play badly.

Clermont have had a run of bad games, and have often been less clinical when they most needed to be. That has nothing to do with the overall theory of too much money in French rugby or seasons being too confusing. It is Clermont having enough ammo to win things and more times than not coming up short on the field, either tactically or just through a lack of luck sometimes....or by just being not as good as their opponents.

I'm not sure we should consider a revolution of the entire Rugby world calendar to help a team like Clermont achieve its 'true potential'. And these coaches who blame the world when they lose, they really need to relax and take it on the chin. It's coaching and a squad of players ...it ain't the woyld that's against them Wink

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Post by red_stag Thu 30 May - 11:29

Agree with Fly.

To me its a case of Clermont consistently failing to deliver when the pressure is on.

Going on about not having enough top class foreign players is not the way to go and thats what I'm questioning.
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Post by Standulstermen Thu 30 May - 12:15

I don't think anyone is denying cotter is a good coach. What I find ludicrous is that a team with one of the biggest budgets in Europe and is littered with superb foreign talent says it needs more in order to compete.

The problem for Clermont is composure in big games. They were the best team in the heineken but lacked composure when it mattered. I would say ulster are fairly similar as they were the best team in the Rabo but when it comes down to key moments in big games the likes of Leinster are just that much better.

It's about getting your players doing the right things all the time even in high pressure situations, ie fofana not giving the pass to sivivatu and getting turned over/ Diack failing to simply dive in the corner and getting held up.

Now ulster are a few years behind Clermont in terms of how long they have been competitive but next year could be an important one as we need something tangible for our efforts

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Post by ME-109 Thu 30 May - 12:35

The wheels were never on!

They have one Top 14 which seems like a poor return on investment. They have failed miserably in the HC.

The players are a bunch of wasters because they are physically capable of winning but mentally are a bunch of babies.


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Post by St John The Enforcer Thu 30 May - 12:40

Standulstermen wrote:I don't think anyone is denying cotter is a good coach. What I find ludicrous is that a team with one of the biggest budgets in Europe and is littered with superb foreign talent says it needs more in order to compete.

The problem for Clermont is composure in big games. They were the best team in the heineken but lacked composure when it mattered. I would say ulster are fairly similar as they were the best team in the Rabo but when it comes down to key moments in big games the likes of Leinster are just that much better.

It's about getting your players doing the right things all the time even in high pressure situations, ie fofana not giving the pass to sivivatu and getting turned over/ Diack failing to simply dive in the corner and getting held up.

Now ulster are a few years behind Clermont in terms of how long they have been competitive but next year could be an important one as we need something tangible for our efforts
You are indeed a wise man.
Clermont did everything they could to blow it against a shyte Munster team but just failed. They blew it properly in the final v a much stronger (on paper but not on grass) Toulon.

They are fcuked now. Hard to see where they will get the momentum from with only Mike Delaney coming in and no coach.

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Are the wheels falling off at Clermont Auvergne? Empty Re: Are the wheels falling off at Clermont Auvergne?

Post by Standulstermen Thu 30 May - 12:44

I still think they will be massively competitive. I don't know a lot about delaney but he wasn't registered for the HEC this year as I recall. He could be the answer. God knows they are well stocked everywhere else!

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Are the wheels falling off at Clermont Auvergne? Empty Re: Are the wheels falling off at Clermont Auvergne?

Post by beshocked Thu 30 May - 12:51

Clermont aren't suddenly a poor side. A little bit of perspective is needed. They are HC finalists - one step further than last year. They still managed to dump Leinster out of the HC.

They made the playoffs of the top 14. I think a lot of clubs would be envious of them.

Munster are supposedly called poor but like most Irish sides they see the HC as their bread and butter. They are more dangerous in this competition. Munster cannot be written off in the HC. Even when supposedly not at their best they managed to make a HC semi final.

If Clermont struggle next season then yes you are correct.

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Post by SecretFly Thu 30 May - 13:02

beshocked wrote:Clermont aren't suddenly a poor side. A little bit of perspective is needed. They are HC finalists - one step further than last year. They still managed to dump Leinster out of the HC.

They made the playoffs of the top 14. I think a lot of clubs would be envious of them.

Munster are supposedly called poor but like most Irish sides they see the HC as their bread and butter. They are more dangerous in this competition. Munster cannot be written off in the HC. Even when supposedly not at their best they managed to make a HC semi final.

If Clermont struggle next season then yes you are correct.

Poor side? Who said that in the last few dozen posts? Not a poor side, a side that should be doing better on the title front given just how good they could be based on the players they have, and their style of play, and the time they've now been coached by one Vern Cotter.

They're a good side. Poor record though on the title front after the last seven years of trying for such a good side.

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Post by whocares Thu 30 May - 15:43

red_stag wrote:Going on about not having enough top class foreign players is not the way to go and thats what I'm questioning.

I wish you were 100% right Staggy but Toulon has proven the opposite. their strenght relies on a their foreign legion. the likes of Botha and Wilkinson are leaders on the pitch that Clermont could only dream to have. They managed to keep the ship afloat and win trophies despite not having the best weapons. Their sheer deermination, ultimate professionalism and dedication, desire to win more trophies made it happen for Toulon (ok now I am getting carried away). Prior the semi final againts Toulouse, Hayman got injured which was not good news against the most powerful scrum of France. One example, Backkies had a talk with the replacement TH prop who had an horrible time in last year final and this guy had a great game. In moments like that, experience and winning mindset are priceless.

By the way, am far from a Toulon fan but their attitude and work ethos has to be respected.

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Post by red_stag Thu 30 May - 15:55

Whocares,

I agree you need some foreign players. But you don't need any more than Clermont have.

Just get smarter with money and make sure all signings are well thought out.

Look at Ulster. They turned a club around with about 3 or 4 signings. The rest were all home grown. But true leaders like Johann Muller, Ruan Pienaar, Jared Payne and John Afoa have done wonders to bring in new ideas.

Clermont have got all these foreign guys. Lee Byrne, Sivivatu, Nathan Hines, Regan King etc. These guys aren't in France for the fun of it. They get decent wages to be there. Ensure you're bringing in the right calibre of players and it will pay dividends.

Toulon look sharp this year but they invested millions without seeing a return. By contrast Perpignan signed Dan Carter (who barely played) but coincidentally the team was buoyed enough to win the Top 14.

Less is more IMO.
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Post by Guest Thu 30 May - 20:13

History shows that as a general rule, you do not win HCs or domestic leagues without an international and preferably current flyhalf.
All the current focus on scrums and breakdown conceal the fact that, these facets being equal, games are won and lost by the tactical nous between territory and posession at flyhalf, often to emphasise the preferences of referees too.

Clermont, despite numerous finals have not recognised this and given the number of ageing disgarded internationals, Cotter simply wants to jump ship before the next transition happens.

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Post by Hound of Harrow Fri 31 May - 1:01

Clermont are going through the phase that Munster had to endure before reaching out, searching into their souls and closing out the deal.

Heartache before triumph.

It takes more than talent to get there.

Smile

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