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Monday 18 December 2017

Geech: Blues facing 'best' in Clermont

IAN McGEECHAN believes champions Leinster will be up against the "best team in the competition" when they take on Clermont Auvergne in their Heineken Cup quarter-final.

Leinster visit Munster in the Magners League on Friday and host Clermont the following weekend, and McGeechan, who took charge of Leinster stars such as Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip on the Lions tour to South Africa, believes Michael Cheika's men face a monumental challenge.

"If Clermont beat Leinster, it could be the making of them because I think they are the best team in the competition," said McGeechan, who led Wasps to European glory in 2007.

The French side have never won the Heineken Cup and are perennial bridesmaids in the domestic Top 14, but McGeechan says, just as Leinster's self-belief blossomed after their quarter-final win over Harlequins last season, Clermont have the ability to go all the way this time.

"They are the sort of team that if they get a big quarter-final win, you can see them relaxing and going to the semi-final and being on a different level," he said.

Munster face a tough quarter-final against McGeechan's old club Northampton but the Scot believes Tony McGahan's side have the experience and mental strength to come through against a team that nearly derailed them in the pool stages.

"Nous is the most important quality in this competition and Munster are the example," said McGeechan. "Having that nous is vital, to qualify and then knowing how to win when you get to the knock-out stages."

McGeechan also had words of encouragement for Declan Kidney. "The World Cup is still more than 12 months away and Ireland are settled: you could probably select a team without a lot of trouble," he said.

"That's the sort of stability that all coaches would like."

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