As the captain of Bordeaux-Bègles, Matthew Clarkin looks ahead to the game against Racing Metro 92 on the hallowed pitch at Stade Chaban-Delmas, the former Waikato Number 8 admits UBB will need to take a big step up against the Ciel et Blanc
Matthew, on Saturday the UBB will host the Racingmen in Bordeaux’s magnificent Stade Chaban-Delmas. What difference does it make to the performance of your team, and how important is to you to be playing there?
It’s true that last year, playing our games at Chaban worked well for us. And like last year we’re hoping it will give us a little bit of advantage. I don’t know what it is exactly, but it always seems to bring a bit of magic. And of course, it’s the first time we will have played there this season, and we’re hoping to get the big crowds that we had last year. It will make the season feel like it has really started.
The Flying Fijian Metuisela Talebula, top try-scorer (15) in last year’s TOP 14 picked up an injury in the World Cup qualifier for Fiji in June. Is your star winger back from injury yet?
No, at this stage it’s a bit doubtful for “Met”, and unfortunately for us I don’t think he will be ready for the game against Racing Metro this weekend.
You also have a few problems up front with injuries to your tight-head props, notably former Racingman Benjamin Sa and Argentinean Francisco Gomez Kodela. What is the situation at tight-head?
Unfortunately we lost Kodela with a broken hand last weekend, and Ben Sa has probably got another month to go before he can play again. So we are down to our last two specialist tight-heads. But we have a couple of loose-heads who can play both sides. We have still got guys who can hold down the scrum and play a bit of rugby, so it’s not the end of the world! (Laughs)
In your first game, despite beating Lyon 18-9, UBB looked decidedly shaky especially in the first half. Does that worry you before hosting Racing ?
I was a bit disappointed with the way we played. But thankfully it was easy to identify the reasons why. There were a lot of handling mistakes, a lot of little things, and you can’t expect to put in a good performance if you can’t hang on to the ball, or get it out of your rucks. So we have put in a lot of work into fixing that. They are things that are fixable, so we’re hoping to get back to our best level this weekend.
What did you think of Racing’s performance, winning 16-19 in Montpellier?
I did watch the Racing game in Montpellier and I was very impressed with the way they played. We know how hard they are to beat, they have a lot of density up front, and they were giving the ball some air. So they are going to be a huge challenge. We were shaky at best against Lyon, and we managed to squeak a win. But we are well aware that if we plan to win this weekend, it’s going to need a big step up.
What do you fear in particular from Racing?
We know their players very well, most of them are internationals, so have seen them play either at club or international level. But as much as we know Racing, above all they have a lot of players who are capable of making a difference. Or coming up with big plays. So we’re going to have to look out for that, make sure that our defence is where it needs to be. And hopefully we can get our act together on attack.
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