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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 24 July, 2014

Heineken Cup: Sexton preparing for ‘toughest test’

The Leinster and Ireland number 10 says his side can leave no stone unturned before facing Clermont, the ‘best team’ in the competition.

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

JONATHAN SEXTON IS adamant that leinst must be at their very best in order to make a second successive Heineken Cup final.

Leinster travel to Bordeaux this weekend to face Clermont Auvergne in a clash many believe will provide the winners of this year’s competition.

Having won the European title last year, and remained unbeaten in the competition this season, it is 13 games since the eastern province tasted defeat on the biggest stage.

That defeat, was a 20-13 arm wrestle with none other than Clermont. No surprise then that Sexton has been keeping an eye out for a return trip.

“We only speak about the next game every week, but I suppose this has been on our minds since we beat Cardiff in the quarters. We know it’s probably going to be our toughest test that we’ve faced over the last few years.”

That group stage defeat in 2010 came in the Stade Marcel Michelin, where Vern Cotter’s men have won 42 on the trot. This Sunday will see both sides travel to the Stade Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux. Never-the-less, the fly-half was in full agreement when a colleague suggested that the mood before the game was ‘a mix of excitement and fear.’

Yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s always the best combination. Obviously we’re confident in ourselves, but we’re going to have to play to our very best if we’re going to be in with a shout near the end of the game.

“That’s what we’re concentrating on this week, getting everything we can right, and if we can do that well then we can live with the result on Saturday.”

That’s not to say that they will be ignoring the threat of their hosts, there will be plenty of homework done before Sunday afternoon’s kick off. Perhaps twice their usual workload, not only because Sexton feels the joint leaders of France’s Top 14 can threaten “across the board”, but also because the choice between Brock James and David Skrela offer markedly different attacking options.

Mix and match

“He (James) has got a fantastic passing game and running game, if anything they throw the ball around a little more into the wider channel when he’s playing. Skrela’s a big guy, he’s very physical so they can mix and match and if both are fit I’m sure both will play a part on the day.”

It all amounts to mountainous task, something even this all-terrain Leinster outfit have not encountered before.

“We’re probably going to have to step it up another level in defence,” added Sexton as an early battle cry, “we’re going to be playing something that we haven’t played this season yet.

“That’s with the greatest respect to all the other teams we’ve played, but these guys are probably the best team, on paper, in the competition and we’re going to have to be at our very best to get the result.”

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