Clermont vote for victory against Leinster

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Lyon (AFP) – Clermont hope to bury the misery of two European Cup final defeats in the last four years by downing three-time champions Leinster on Sunday and reach another title match.

The French side lost the 2013 and 2015 finals to Toulon by scores of 16-15 and 24-18. 

They also came up short against Leinster in the 2012 semi-finals but three members of that Irish team will be missing from Sunday’s semi-final in Lyon.

Injury has ruled out No 8 Jamie Heaslip and flanker Sean O’Brien while fellow forward Cian Healy has been suspended for two weeks.

“We’re carrying in some good form and there’s no reason why we can’t go all the way. We are fully aware that Leinster are a fantastic side as well and that they pose lots of threats in attack and defence,” Clermont’s English winger Nick Abendanon told epcrugby.com.

“I feel like the team has a better understanding, better rugby intelligence of how we want to play the game. We’ve got some key players — Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra and Remi Lamerat — who are vital to the team and in great form at the moment. 

“They’re integral parts of the machine,” added Abendanon whose team got revenge over Toulon in the quarter-final with a 29-9 win.

However, a final date against either Munster or defending champions Saracens will still appear far away as Celtic League leaders Leinster are unbeaten in 2017.

They also reached the semi-finals with an impressive win over English Premiership leaders Wasps.

The Irish side are without Dave and Rob Kearney but winger Isa Nacewa will lead the team on his 50th appearance in the tournament. 

Clermont have also suffered key injuries ahead of the semi-final with centres Wesley Fofana and Noa Nakaitaci ruled out.

However, forwards Benjamin Kayser, Davit Zirakashvili and Sebastien Vahaamahina, who were all uncertain, have been cleared to play.

Damien Penaud, a try scorer in the quarter-final win over Toulon, has an extra reason to want to get to the final — his father, Alain, was part of the Brive team which won the European Cup back in 1997.

Some French players, meanwhile, insist they will not be distracted by the first round of voting for the next president which takes place also on Sunday.

Fly-half star Camille Lopez said his thoughts where only on the game.

“I asked myself if I was still registered to vote in Perpignan (where he played until 2014,” he said.

“It will be complicated and I have other things to think about, to be honest. My priority is not the election. Me, I am voting for Clermont!”

Leinster will be without three players in their semi-final clash with Clermont including number 8 Jamie Heaslip (R)
Copyright AFP/File Paul ELLIS