O'Connell: Clermont clear favourites

Mon, 08 Apr 2013 09:19
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Paul O'Connell has already installed his team as firm underdogs to reach the 18th European Cup final in Dublin.

Paul O'Connell has already installed his team as firm underdogs to reach the 18th European Cup final in Dublin.

The veteran Irish lock believes semifinal rivals ASM Clermont Auvergne will be "pleased" to have seen the Irishmen progress at the expense of Harlequins.

The former Irish and British Lions skipper has already played in six semifinals and knows what it takes to win overseas.

But standing in his way of a possible fourth European Cup Final is one of the best teams in Europe.

"It's going to be very tough going forward and I'm sure Clermont will be delighted they got us and not Harlequins," admitted O'Connell.

"It's going to be very tough for us to beat Clermont. They have power across the park and just look at their bench - any team in Europe would like to have their bench in their 1st XV.

"These young guys at Munster can give anyone a game, but it is going to be very tough."

Having played only seven games in the past 11 months due to knee and back injuries, O'Connell is still getting back to his best, but after his Man of the Match performance in the quarterfinal in front of the three British & Irish Lions coaches, Warren Gatland, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell, he looks destined for a third tour this summer.

"I feel very much back in the mix after a game like that. There was a lot of doubt after last week - we felt we threw a bit of a dummy against Glasgow, which wasn't our intention, and we were a bit down in the week," said O'Connell.

"To be back involved with it is great. I've a little bit to go with my match fitness, but I'm delighted to be back playing and to have come through another match injury free."

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Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
Saracens 6 6 0 0 28
Ulster 6 4 0 2 18
Oyonnax 6 1 0 5 7
Toulouse 6 1 0 5 5
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Exeter Chiefs 6 3 0 3 16
Bordeaux 6 3 0 3 16
Ospreys 6 3 0 3 16
Clermont Auvergne 6 3 0 3 15
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Racing Metro 6 4 1 1 22
Northampton Saints 6 4 1 1 19
Glasgow Warriors 6 3 0 3 14
Scarlets 6 0 0 6 2
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Leicester Tigers 6 5 0 1 23
Stade Francais 6 4 0 2 19
Munster 6 3 0 3 15
Treviso 6 0 0 6 0
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Wasps 6 4 0 2 20
Toulon 6 5 0 1 20
Bath 6 2 0 4 10
Leinster 6 1 0 5 6