ASM Clermont Auvergne captain Aurelien Rougerie will be taking nothing for granted when he leads his team out for their historic Heineken Cup semifinal debut in Bordeaux on Sunday.
The sole French club through to the last four will now clash with defending champions Leinster at Stade Chaban-Delmas after winning a tournament quarterfinal at the fourth time of asking, but their captain is adamant that he will not be satisfied unless they dump the defending champions out of the competition.
The previous three defeats came in 2000 against Toulouse, in 2002 against Castres Olympique and most recently two years ago when Leinster won a 29-28 thriller in Dublin.
Earlier this month they beat Saracens 22-3 at Vicarage Road to set up the Bordeaux showdown with a club coached by Joe Schmidt – who was on the Clermont coaching staff when they won the French Championship title for the first time in 2010.
"We must keep calm and not get too excited because there is still a long way to go," said the international outside centre who starred for France in the 2011 World Cup Final against New Zealand.
"It is great that we are in the Heineken Cup semifinals but we need to keep working because we have not won anything yet," said Rougerie.
The experienced midfielder said that his team is keen to bring European Cup glory to their fans in the club's centenary year.
"Each title has a unique flavour to it but it is quite right that if we can really perform and win the Heineken Cup title it would be unbelievable for the club and what a way it would be to celebrate our centenary season," he said.
Clermont won the Amlin Challenge Cup title in 1999 and 2007 but now they are in uncharted Heineken Cup territory and Rougerie is wary of Leinster's greater experience of the big stage working in the Irish club's favour after their Heineken Cup final triumphs of 2009 and 2011.
"Even before last weekend's Top14 game against Montpellier we had already had a quick look at Leinster's quarterfinal against Cardiff Blues," he said. "We already knew a fair bit about this team because we played them last year during the pool stage.
"They have quality players everywhere but their biggest strengths are probably the back row and their backs who are very fast – it will be a huge challenge to face Rob Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy.
"And one thing that is sure is that their experience could work against us and they are so used to these games and if we are leading the game they won't panic. They showed this ability in last year's final against Northampton. It is a huge strength when you know how vitally important the details are in a Heineken Cup semifinal," added Rougerie.
Rougerie said that although Schmidt is a shrewd operator who knows the Clermont side well, the French side are confident that they can negate the threat that he represents.
"Joe knows Clermont well but we are not worried, he is doing a great job in Dublin with world-class players. He has a close relationship with his players and knows how to lead a team," he said.
The Clermont skipper hailed the influence of the overseas stars in his team, and added that the team spirit in the Clermont camp is sky high ahead of the semifinal clash.
He commented: "Lee Byrne, Nathan Hines and Sitiveni Sivivatu bring a lot to the team, they bring a freshness and huge experience. It is vital for the team to have established players like them. They are doing a awesome job by reassuring and leading the young players.
"It is always rewarding to meet people from Wales, Scotland or New Zealand and they are a full part of the team and fully integrated. The team spirit is great and I am sure that you can see it with our performance on the pitch.
"It is very difficult to challenge for the Heineken Cup and the French Championship but we hope to go as far as we can and we will not make a choice between the two competitions," added Rougerie.
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