Argentine great Hernandez has revenge on his mind

IF EDINBURGH are to win in Paris they will have to shackle Racing Metro stand-off Juan Martin Hernandez. The gifted Argentine was the star turn at the 2007 Rugby World Cup where he guided the South Americans to third place and not one but two victories over the host nation, France. His exploits also included a hat-trick of drop goals in the pool match against Ireland and another in the quarter-final win over Scotland.

A knee injury ruled him out of last year’s World Cup in New Zealand but Hernandez has made a full recovery. He played at No.10 for Racing in the extraordinary Heineken Cup match at Murrayfield in November when Edinburgh trailed by 24 points but fought back to win 48-47.

Iain Morrison caught up with him ahead of the sides’ rematch in Paris on Friday night.

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Q Have you ever played in a more bizarre match than the last game between Edinburgh and Racing at Murrayfield?

A To be honest, I never played a match with both teams scoring so many points. I did play games where the scoreboard went for one team, then to the other and back to the first one, but not with that amount of points. I think that first game was a good spectacle for the supporters, where both teams played very good rugby, scored plenty of tries and enjoyed it. So I hope to have and feel the same for [the] next one, but Racing to win this time.

Q Did Edinburgh surprise you in any way during the first match and, if so, how?

A Yes, they surprised me the way they came back after losing by more than 20 points in the second half. We were under control of the game until two big mistakes that gave them hope and they took it. It’s admirable. There’s also a lack of maturity from our part, giving them that chance, but still I had to congratulate my friend Esteban Lozada [Edinburgh’s Argentine lock] and his team because they deserved the victory after so much effort.

Q Have Racing given up on Europe to concentrate on the Top 14?

A I say it’s not finished until it’s finished. So we still have a little chance against Edinburgh at home and if others results are with us, we could eventually play our way to qualification in Cardiff. I know it’s a very difficult game next Friday because Edinburgh has lot of confidence and momentum in this competition, but I still believe in my team.

Q If so will that influence team selection for the second Edinburgh match?

A That is a question for the coach Pierre Berbizier.

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Q Racing have a famous history of playing rugby with flair and so do you... is that why you joined the club?

A I joined Racing because the project, ambition and big names of players arriving were a great challenge after a few injuries I’d had. That motivated me to join a traditional rugby club in France, contributing to build the team and trying to put Racing on top of all the clubs in France again.

Q Everyone expected Racing to use their big forwards against Edinburgh in the first match but instead they used the backs. Is that the Racing way?

A We’ve been trying since the beginning of the season to play a good blend of rugby between forwards and backs, not only with our big forwards. Sometimes we can, in other matches we are constrained by opponents, weather, or the players we have available. So one match is never the same as another but we still have a pattern that we try to respect. Then two tries against us in the first five minutes at Murrayfield pushed us to start playing more than we were used to.

Q Will Racing make special efforts in defence to stop Edinburgh’s Dutch winger Tim Visser next Friday?

A He is a good player as are the rest of his team-mates, so we have to make big efforts to stop not only him, but any Edinburgh player. It’s true that he’s in good shape, scoring tries and breaking tackles. It’s up to us to win our one-to-one situations.

Q Will Racing be looking for revenge next Friday?

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A Rugby always gives revenge opportunities. So next game I hope we do things better than Edinburgh in order to find hope before going to Cardiff.