Montpellier looking to deny star-studded Clermont space
Galthie’s side can focus fully on Cotter’s men with their domestic affairs in good shape
With a six-point cushion over Perpignan, and sitting sixth in the Top 14 with two domestic matches remaining, Fabien Galthie’s Montpellier can pour their entire focus into this afternoon’s guaranteed warzone without overly fretting about reaching the French play-offs.
That alone sets this up as a potential classic, a certain blood bath, that will only be decided by the slimmest of margin.
Clermont can pull away on the scoreboard, but only if the Montpellier defence is broken in the third quarter.
The nightmare scenario becomes a reality if it is a one score game entering the final throes because Clermont are reliant on outhalf Ludovic Radosavljevic to direct matters due to injury to Brock James and uncertainty about David Skrela, who has made the reserves.
Perfection from little scrumhalf general, Morgan Parra, will be required because their gargantuan forwards – Davit Zirakashvili, Jamie Cudmore, Nathan Hines, Gerhard Vosloo and Julien Bonnaire – will not be able to batter men like Mamuka Gorgodze, Thibault Priva and Fulgence Ouedraogo into submission.
It could mean their wondrously star-studded backline – Lee Byrne, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana and Napolioni Nalaga – will be denied the oxygen to maintain the unwanted title of champions-elect.
Clermont coach Vern Cotter would have groaned at the sight of Montpellier, especially now their league status is somewhat solidified.
It will probably take a moment of magic from Fofana or Sivivatu to renew acquaintances with Munster or Harlequins in the semi-final.