Rugby’s big hitters set to slug it out at Murrayfield

Clermont's Benjamin Kayser will be competing in his fifth European Cup final. Picture: Getty Images
Clermont's Benjamin Kayser will be competing in his fifth European Cup final. Picture: Getty Images
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Last weekend Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua provided great entertainment in a Wembley bout and next weekend’s encounter between Clermont and Saracens at Murrayfield promises to be another slug fest between two European heavyweights.

The final pits last year’s victors against the best club never to have won the trophy; Clermont falling at the final hurdle in 2013 and 2015.

And if you think Lady Luck has dealt Clermont a sharp blow to the nether regions then take pity on their veteran hooker. The former French international Benjamin Kayser will be competing in his fifth European Cup final and has yet to lift the trophy. His previous failures were with Stade Francais (2005), Leicester (2009 at Murrayfield) and Clermont in 2013 and 2015 when they lost to Toulon… twice.

It would be nice to think that a moment of magic from the fleet of thought Nick Abendenon or the fleet of foot Chris Ashton, one try short of breaking Vincent Clerc’s scoring record, would settle this one. But the realists amongst us strongly suspect that the final will be determined by whichever team fields the most beef and puts it in the right areas of the field to batter or squeeze the life out of the opposition.

Clermont could get a toehold in this game at the set scrum because their twin props, Raphael Chaume and the Georgian Davit Zirakashvili, gave Leinster’s pair of Tadhg Furlong and Jack McGrath a hurry up in that semi-final and those two are supposedly pencilled in as starters for the Lions this summer. Steve Hansen are you watching?

Should Sarries’ loosehead Mako Vunipola handle the Georgian a little better than McGrath managed, he could find himself in for a quick promotion into the Lions’ starting XV. The other area you fancy the Frenchmen can hurt Saracens’ famed wolf pack is with the drop goal which turns pressure into points without the tricky business of crossing the try line; something Sarries much vaunted defence renders almost impossible. Stand-off Camille Lopez claimed two against Leinster and any time Clermont get into the Saracens’ red zone they know it is an option for an easy three.

Saracens were monumental in their own semi-final, out-Munstering Munster, which is quite some boast since the match was held in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. Soaking up the first-half pressure like a sponge before coming back strong in the second 40 to win this match by an eye-catching 16-point margin, which arguably flattered Munster. The holders will rightly start as favourites and one more win would break Leinster’s record of 17 unbeaten matches, but the French side are keen to rid themselves of the unwanted tag of bottling the big one and there is no better place to do so than in a Champions Cup final at Murrayfield with the eyes of the rugby world watching.

Clermont will fancy themselves capable of an upset, even if they may need a little luck at the third time of asking.