Match Preview: ASM Clermont Auvergne vs. Ulster Rugby
Ulster ace Charles Piutau says he is relishing the chance to take on Clermont Auvergne in their European Rugby Champions Cup encounter in France.The Irish province will be hoping to make it back-to-back Pool 5 wins against Clermont after claiming a famous 39-32 success in Belfast last weekend.
A second victory in eight days could see Ulster top the pool going into 2017, if Bordeaux-Begles fail to beat Exeter Chiefs on Saturday.
New Zealand Full-back Piutau said: "Clermont's stadium is one of the best places to play rugby and I'd love to experience that. It's going to be a hostile crowd, but that's what rugby is about. Hopefully, we can put in a good performance."
Ulster sit joint-second with Bordeaux in Pool 5, and they have transferred their excellent PRO12 form to Europe.
The Ulstermen have won two games on the bounce, and will look to extend their run at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin on Sunday.
Piutau, who scored a try in their bonus-point victory over Clermont, reckons European rugby is a step-up.
He explained: "You've got to play against quality sides like Clermont, a big French team like that.
"There's a lot on the line for us in the European games and the intensity, speed and quality of players is definitely a step-up."
Ulster star Iain Henderson put in a man of the match performance against 2015 Champions Cup runners-up Clermont and wants a repeat on Sunday. Henderson, 24, like Piutau, scored in the tight affair.
The Ireland international added: "Having lost in France last time out, every game is a crunch game. We will look forward to going out there.
"Hats off to Clermont - just look at how many points they scored against us. That's something we need to try and stop [in France], but they are a great attacking side."
ASM Clermont Auvergne vs. Ulster Rugby
Sunday 18th December, 15:05 (16:05 local)
European Rugby Champions' Cup - Round 4
Live on Sky Sports
ASM CLERMONT AUVERGNE
15. Isaia Toeava, 14. Noa Nakaitaci, 13. Rémi Lamerat, 12. Wesley Fofana, 11. Nick Abendanon, 10. Camille Lopez, 9. Morgan Parra; 1. Etienne Falgoux, 2. Benjamin Kayser, 3. David Zirakashvili, 4. Arthur Iturria, 5. Sébastien Vahaamahina, 6. Viktor Kolelishvili, 7. Alexandre Lapandry, 8. Damien Chouly (capt.).
Replacements: 16. John Ulugia, 17. Thomas Domingo, 18. Michael Simutoga, 19. Flip van der Merwe, 20. Peceli Yato, 21. Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22. Patricio Fernandez, 23. Aurélien Rougerie.
15. Charles Piutau, 14. Tommy Bowe, 12. Luke Marshall, 11. Louis Ludik, 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Ruan Pienaar; 1. Kyle McCall, 2. Rory Best (capt.), 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 4. Pete Browne, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Iain Henderson, 7. Chris Henry, 8. Sean Reidy.
Replacements: 16. Rob Herring, 17. Andy Warwick, 18. Rodney Ah You, 19. Kieran Treadwell, 20. Clive Ross, 21. Paul Marshall, 22. Darren Cave, 23. Jacob Stockdale.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Simone Boaretto (both FIR)
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)