Hines ready to 'tickle' Toulon bruisers
Nathan Hines believes that Saturday's European Cup Final against Toulon in Dublin has all the makings of a massive physical confrontation.
Nathan Hines, one of only two players in Clermont Auvergne's ranks who have European Cup winners' medals to their names, perhaps not surprisingly believes that Saturday's Final against Toulon in Dublin has all the makings of a massive physical confrontation.
"You have guys like Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and Chris Masoe in the Toulon line-up, and they're not exactly going to come out and start tickling you in a ruck are they?" said Hines, who scored a second-half try in Leinster's dramatic 2011 Final victory over Northampton Saints at the Millennium Stadium.
"So, yeah, you could say it's going to be physical."
The veteran 36-year-old second row, who returns to his old Dublin stamping ground where Clermont outplayed Leinster in this season's pool game back in December, believes the heavyweight contest will come down to who deals best with the physical pressure.
"I feel really comfortable at the Aviva [Stadium, in Dublin], but obviously, that doesn't mean we won't have to work really hard to win.
"Playing against Toulon, it's all about pressure.
"They have strong forwards and power-runners, so there's danger pretty much everywhere. If we can cope with the pressure, stay out of our own half and keep them in theirs, then like in any rugby game, you're on your way to making it easier for yourself.
"Saturday won't be just about preventing Jonny Wilkinson from controlling the game.
"He certainly puts Toulon in the right parts of the pitch, then they turn the screw, they make you make mistakes, and then the penalties come. Jonny finishes what his team creates, so it goes without saying that discipline will be incredibly important."
Hines has started in seven of Clermont's eight tournaments games so far this season, and if the Auvergne club manage to clinch a first European Cup title, he'll become the fifth player in history after Philippe Carbonneau (Toulouse and Brive), Cedric Heymans (Brive and Toulouse), Federico Mendez (Bath and Northampton Saints) and Eoin Reddan (London Wasps and Leinster) to win the trophy with different clubs.
"That Final win with Leinster two years ago is right up there in my career. I know we were losing 22-6 at half-time, but I never felt that the game was over despite the fact that Northampton had dominated us.
"It was an amazing turnaround, and in any professional game, to come back from a deficit is pretty good, but in a big final, that's really something special. But then the European Cup is a special tournament. The Six Nations is fine, but this tournament has some of the best players from all over the world, so to have a winner's medal is a real achievement."
With a host of highly experienced, world-class players on show at the Aviva Stadium, and as many as 13 nations represented in the two finalists' squads, Hines doesn't think that he'll be required to pass on any tips from his big European day in 2011.
"We have a lot of leaders in the side, guys who've played in a World Cup Final and in Challenge Cup finals, so while we know that this will be a high-pressure match, we've played a few pressure games before," he added.
"I don't think we're under any particular pressure to deliver on Saturday. It has been an objective of the club to win the French Championship and to win the European Cup, and our sole aim this weekend is to win the Heineken. What people are saying about who's favourites doesn't really bother us at all. How we want to play is more pressing than any degree of expectation."
If Hines is within touching distance of writing himself into the record books, then Clermont too are bidding to become the first club in history to win all nine games in the one season on the way to lifting the trophy.
"There's a strong belief that we'll win," he said. "We've got the team on paper, but then so have Toulon. It's about how we play, how we cope with the physical pressure."