The Auvergnats, who move Sunday at the Stadium in Toulouse, must be more "killers" as the final sprint looms.
A priori, the first two places in the Top 14, directly qualifying for the semi-finals, should not escape Toulouse and Clermont. Even if the ASM is not immune to a return from Lyon, third to 11 points of the 2e place five days from the end of the regular season. But for now, Toulouse and Clermont are in a strong position. As since the beginning of the season. And their Sunday showdown at the Stadium (sold out, 32,700 people), if it does not really have sports issues, is presented as a final before the time.
A real rehearsal or just a gala poster? Franck Azéma, the Auvergne manager, reframes things: "We are not yet qualified, there are two months of competition and we come out of a draw at home against Racing (31-31, last Sunday). We have enough things to fix and many more to do before considering the upcoming matches as gala matches. "The Auvergnats – deprived of their opener Camille Lopez, touched on the sternum – must redeem themselves after sharing the points, at the Marcel-Michelin stadium, with the Parisians.
"We are unruly. We stay always in range "
A match they could have lost if Maxime Machenaud had not missed a penalty in his strings. The ASM questions as the final sprint looms. How could the Jaunards, who led 25-13 shortly before the break, let the game go? "We were nevertheless present defensively, in the fight, in the aggressiveness: we score. On some occasions, we could have scored even a little more but we are unruly. We stay always in range. It will do us good to keep our heads on our shoulders, "explained Morgan Parra.
Problem: these declines are repeated in recent games. In the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup, against Northampton, the Auvergnats had known such relaxation, without consequences. Franck Azéma explained then that it was "not complacency but rather negligence". Clermont has to work his "killer instinct", to be able to permanently knock out an opponent when the difference is made. Against Toulouse, the manager Auvergnat expects his team "that it is faithful to what it shows since the beginning of the year in terms of his behavior, how we wet our jersey and the way we defend our colors ".
The fact remains that Toulouse and Clermont will surely have their heads already turned towards their European semi-final. When the Stadium will have to move to Dublin to challenge the Leinster in the Champions Cup, the ASM will have the advantage of receiving the Harlequins Challenge Cup, the small cup of Europe. But the flanker Alexandre Lapandry does not intend to squander this shock of the 22e Top 14. "Toulouse plays very well since the beginning of the season, we talk a lot about their game, but they impose especially a big fight and have one of the best defenses of the championship, he explains. We do not have much to envy, like them, we have the staff to move and compete with everyone at each of our matches. We are expecting a very big rugby match. "
Reunion in the final eleven years later?
On a lawn of the Stadium which succeeds rather well with the Jaunards since they were imposed there in 2001, 2008 and 2010. "We have a group of quality which can move and which can compete with any team on n ' any weekend. It must be used to make a result, "continues Alexandre Lapandry. Possible reunions in the final are still far away. Especially since the logic of the classification at the end of the regular season is regularly swept by the final stages. It is thus necessary to go back to 2008 to find trace of a clash between the 1st and the 2e. At the time, it was … Clermont and Toulouse, which had imposed 26-20. Another era. Since then, the ASM has ended its curse by raising two Brennus (2010 and 2017).