Top 14 - Game of the Week
Perpignan eye immediate revenge
August 11, 2010
Last season's Top 14 finalists Clermont and Perpignan face each other on the opening day of the new season on Friday © Getty Images
The scenes were memorable and lasting as Clermont Auvergne were finally crowned the champions of France back in late May. The huge outpouring of emotion provided a feel-good end to the Top 14 season.
Beating Perpignan in that match ended a 74-year wait, stretching across eleven finals, but now all those memories are pushed to one side as we're on the cusp of the new season and Perpignan have the chance to exact immediate revenge, not that Vern Cotter's Clermont side will budge an inch.
The sides meet on Friday at the Aime Giral in Perpignan where it's unlikely that Clermont will be caught napping. The weighty and unwieldy 'choker' tag has been removed from around their necks but the pressure is on as an opening round win is not to be sniffed at before all hell breaks loose in the rush to the play-offs in distant May. There is a lot at stake.
Both have been active in pre-season preparation, with Perpignan being shaded 29-30 by Racing Metro and Clermont beating Sale Sharks 26-8 this past weekend in their last fine-tuning exercise.
For Perpignan their main concern is at fly-half as Nicolas Laharrague has been ruled out for three months after being injured in pre-season. Steve Meyer left the club last season, already leaving them short in that department, meaning that centre Gavin Hume could well have been their only back-up stand-off. So they've had to turn to a familiar face in the former Bayonne and Wallabies fly-half Manny Edmonds, who signed a three month deal to cover for the injury, after previously joining the club as backline coach.
Up front the home side will be as grizzled as ever, led by the tough Nicolas Mas and the fiery Marius Tincu, so it's unlikely that they'll be pushed around on their home track by the visitors.
Clermont's squad will boast a hugely familiar look to it as the core of last season's champion side make their way to the coastal town for this clash. It's a game that could well see Les Jaunards come out on top - primarily because of class of their likely half-back pairing of Morgan Parra and Brock James but also the danger of their strike runners in Napolioni Nalaga, Marius Joubert and new face Sione Lauaki.
Perpignan rarely lose at home however and their fans will turn up the volume in order to ensure a running start. Can the Clermont feel-good factor silence the Aime Giral?