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Scarlets Told By Clermont Coach, “You’re Favourites . . . You Have An Englishman As Referee”

By David Williams

The Scarlets will have history, form – and maybe even referee Wayne Barnes – in their favour when they host Clermont Auvergne on Friday, according to the French club’s head coach Christophe Urios.

Clermont may have won away at Bristol in the last 16 of the European Challenge Cup, but Urios reckons his team’s quarter-final tie at Parc y Scarlets will be much tougher.

The match referee is Barnes, the Englishman who is widely regarded as the world’s best, but not an official Urios reckons his team really understand.

“Once again, we will not be favorites,” said Urios, looking ahead to a match that is live on S4C.

“We play away from home, against a team that has a long series of home successes – with notable convincing victories against South African provinces – and with an English referee to whom we will have to adapt.

“Winning a European match away from home is complicated.

“The Scarlets are one of those teams that have a real collective spirit and they are capable of making individuals flourish and emerge within that team.

“It would be a trap to believe that what awaits us with the Scarlets will be easier than we faced in Bristol.

“The Scarlets carry the pride of Welsh rugby and Welsh rugby is not in as bad a state as we are led to believe.

“Away from home, we need a lot of solidarity and a strong collective. The victory against Bristol has given us confidence that has allowed us to work well, but we know it will also be very tough against a Scarlets team that has a collective strength.”

Clermont have won the Challenge Cup three times – in 1999, 2007 and 2019 – but they are not the force of old.

They currently lay 10th in the French Top 14 with just nine victories in 21 league matches so far this season and they dropped down from the Heineken Champions Cup to the second tier Challenge Cup after finishing ninth in Pool B following three successive defeats.

They did, however, rouse themselves to come from behind and win 33-26 at Bristol Bears in the round of 16 to earn their trip to Llanelli.

“We played collectively against Bristol and won the battles in the phases, the exits, and in defense and we will need to do all that again to win against the Scarlets,” added former Castres hooker and coach Urios.

Clermont became a regular destination for Scarlets players during their rise from the backwaters of the Auvergne region to becoming one of the powerhouses of French rugby.

Stephen Jones and Jonathan Davies both enjoyed successful spells with the club, Lee Byrne went there after his time at the Ospreys, and Canadian Jamie Cudmore also played for both clubs.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “Clermont have a massive history in European rugby and have some quality, star names.

“That is what it is all about, a big team, a big crowd, it is a challenge we are all excited about.

“It will be a great occasion.”

S4C: Friday, 7.55pm – Rygbi Ewrop: Scarlets v Clermont. Like coverage from Parc y Scarlets of the European Challenge Cup quarter-final between the Scarlets and Clermont Auvergne.

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