Clermont Auvergne v Perpignan, Top 14 Final
Perpignan look to extend Clermont duck
June 5, 2009
Brock James will be looking to inspire Clermont to a maiden championship © Getty Images
Clermont Auvergne and Perpignan will go head to head at the Stade de France on Saturday, both hoping to lift the prized Bouclier de Brennus. Clermont, led by France international Aurelien Rougerie, will be looking to break their unwanted duck - having never won the trophy after nine appearances in the final.
Perpignan, who will be cheered from the stands by their injured All Black fly-half Dan Carter, have not won the coveted top prize in French rugby since 1955 and made their last appearance in the final in 2004. Clermont, by comparison, have made the final for the last two seasons - losing out 23-18 to Stade Francais in 2007 and 26-20 to Toulouse in a bona-fide classic last season.
With the stadium likely to be a riot of yellow and red, the two sides both boast experience throughout. Rougerie starts at outside-centre alongside Italian international Gonzalo Canale, with explosive winger Napolioni Nalaga having overcome a fitness scare to take his position out wide. Nalaga is joined by Anthony Floch and Benoit Baby in the back-three.
Australian fly-half Brock James, who scored all of Clermont's 19 points in their semi-final win over Toulouse, starts alongside French international Pierre Mignoni. Mignoni will play his last game for the club on Saturday, before setting off for his hometown club of Toulon, and will need no motivation to bring home the goods.
Mignoni will start behind a bruising pack, with Pumas Martin Scelzo and Mario Ledesma packing down alongside Thomas Domingo in the front-row. Julien Bonnaire anchors the scrum at No.8, with Canadian Jamie Cudmore starting on the blindside flank rather than lock.
Perpignan ended the season in top spot in the league, and after surviving a scare against Stade in the semi-final will be focused on extending Clermont's miserable run. French international prop Nicolas Mas skippers the side from a front-row also containing Romanian hooker Marius Tincu and England international Perry Freshwater. With Nathan Hines currently on tour with the British & Irish Lions, Olivier Olibeau partners Argentina international Rimas-Alvarez Kairelis in the second-row.
While the injured Carter would dearly have loved to play on this stage his place is taken by Gavin Hume, with Nicolas Durand alongside him at scrum-half. Maxime Mermoz and David Marty form an all French international centre pairing, with Jerome Porical, Farid Sid and Julien Candelon hoping to provide some fireworks from the back-three.
Perpignan: J Porical; F Sid, D Marty, M Mermoz, J Candelon; G Hume, N Durand; PT Freshwater, VM Tincu, N Mas, RE Alvarez Kairelis, O Olibeau, G le Corvec, D Chouly, JP Perez
Replacements: G Guirado, K Pulu, G Vilaceca, GJJ Britz, D Mele, JP Grandclaude, P Burger
Clermont Auvergne: A Floch; B Baby, A Rougerie, GJ Canale, N Nalaga; B James, P Mignoni; T Domingo, ME Ledesma Arocena, MA Scelzo, T Privat, J Pierre, J Cudmore, A Audebert, J Bonnaire
Replacements: B Cabello, L Emmanuelli, L Jacquet, E Vermeulen, J Senio, S Baikeinuku, PE Garcia