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French Rugby Column January 18 || By: Howard Johnson

April 24, 2020 2 min read

An enjoyable Saturday afternoon was spent last weekend in the living
room of my friend Jean-Louis and his son Guilleme watching Clermont
Auvergne turn in the kind of performance that makes French rugby
such a joy to watch.

By dispensing of a dangerous-looking Ospreys
side in emphatic fashion during a pulsating Heineken Cup game,
notching 27 points with just seven conceded, Vern Cotter’s men
deprived the visitors of a defensive bonus point while at the same time
setting themselves up nicely to progress to the last eight of the
competition. Victory over Viadana in the final match of the six round
pool stage will see Clermont book their place in the quarter finals,
either as winners of Pool 3 or as one of the best runners-up. That they
dispensed of a seriously talented Ospreys side that featured both Jerry
Collins and Ricky Januarie without ever really looking in danger says
much about the quality of performance on the day.

With Biarritz and Toulouse having already sealed their places in the
knockout stage of the competition and Stade Francais still in with a
decent shout of progressing, it looks like French club rugby is in
healthy shape, especially when you consider that only Toulouse
managed to make it out of the pool stages this time a year ago. Add in
the fact that there’s still a suspicion of what you might term ‘less than
100 per cent commitment’ to the Heineken Cup from the French sides
and you’ve got all the evidence you need of a club game that’s in rude

The less said about my pet side Perpignan the better, of course, after
they lamely capitulated away at Northampton as I predicted they could
easily do in last week’s column. But still, let’s not let one aberration
spoil what was a fine European weekend for the French. I didn’t see
the game between Toulouse and Harlequins. Mrs Johnson was
adamant that we weren’t going to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon
indoors and insisted the family went for a walk. She was right,
incidentally. But after checking out the four outstanding Toulouse tries
on a highlights programme it was abundantly clear that Guy Noves’
side were in peachy form too, even given the fact that they were
playing a Quins outfit that was already out of the running for

No doubt there will be smiles all round in my local bar this morning
when I go down for my ‘petit café’ following these results, and even
despite the fact that local boys Albi went down by 14 points to 16 in

their Amlin Challenge match to Newcastle Falcons here last Friday.
Yes, I heard rumblings of bad refereeing decisions that went against
the home side. But what else is new? I detect, though, given Albi’s
poor showings all season long that something resembling battle fatigue
is setting in with the club’s long-suffering supporters and that even
predictable protestations against the injustice of it all are somewhat
half-hearted. At the end of the day it’s always better to accentuate the
positive, isn’t it? And all of a sudden there seem to be a whole lot
more Toulouse fans round my way, if you know what I mean?!!

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