Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Argentina players in France - Clermont

Officially known as Association Sportive Montferrandaise Clermont Auvergne but commonly shortened to ASM Clermont or simply Clermont is one of France´s most powerful rugby teams. The team played in four consecutive Top 14 Finals from 2007-2010 and after failing to win the Bouclier de Brennus on ten occassions in its history, Clermont were crowned French Champions in 2009-2010 after defeating Perpignan in the Top 14 Final. The victory was decades in the making after Clermont competef in a final for the first time in 1936. As such Clermont had been often refered to as the perennial bridesmaids but, fittingly, the clubs´ Top 14 Championship title in 2010 marked the 100th anniversary of the club.

Clermont-Ferrand is a city located in central France and in 2007 had an official poulation of 429,460. The city is the capital of the Puy de Dôme departément and also the Auvergne region. Despite being one of France´s, and indeed Europe´s, least populated regions Auvergne is a rugby heartland with Clermont having the second highest budget of all teams in the Top 14. Its annual spending of €24,1 million is second to only Toulouse and ensures the club constantly has a large and very talented playing roster. The one disadvantage that the club faces in comparison to that of teams located near big cities is that it is unable to transfer matches to larger stadiums because of location but the teams stadium, the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin has been upgraded to be fully enclosed and has a capacity of 18,030 and it is virtually always full for Top 14 and Heineken Cup matches.

Clermont is another French club that has recruited extensively for the new season. The club has ten new arrivals this season with Benoît Cabello and Gerhard Vosloo joining from Brive, Benjamin Kayser from Castres, David Skrela from Toulouse, Regan King from Scarlets, Sitiveni Sivivatu from the Chiefs, Mark Bennett from Glasgow Warriors, Nathan Hines from Leinster, Daniel Kotze from Aurillac and Lee Byrne from the Ospreys. Nine players who started last season at the club have moved on with the eternal Pumas hooker, Mario Ledesma retiring to take up a coaching position with Stade Français while his Argentine partner, Martín Scelzo has left to join Agen on a two year deal. Fijian flyer, Napolioni Nalaga returned to play ni Fiji, Benoît Baby signed for Biarritz, Thibaut Privat for Montpellier, Sione Lauaki for Bayonne, Tasesa Lavea for the Sale Sharks, George Pisi for the Northampton Saints and Marius Joubert has returned to South Africa to play for the Sharks.

The club is still home to Argentine born Italian international centre Gonzalo Canale who was playing for the Italians at Rugby World Cup 2011. A number of other players at the club featured at New Zealand 2011 including Canada´s Jamie Cudmore, Lee Byrne of Wales, Nathan Hines of Scotland, Ti´i Paulo and Gavin Williams of Samoa, Kini Murimurivalu of Fiji, Davit Zirakashvili of Georgia as well as five players in France´s team - Julien Pierre, Julien Bonnaire, Morgan Parra, David Skrela, and Aurélien Rougerie. The club is one of the strongest in the competition and is again likely to make the Top 14 Semi Finals or better. The players arriving at the club are going to make competition for places in the team highly competitive with David Skrela, for instance, competing with Brock James who has been key to the teams success´ since his arrival at the club.

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