RHYS RUDDOCK HOPES a large travelling contingent of Leinster fans can create ‘an extra special’ atmosphere for Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final in Lyon and give the players a boost for their showdown with Clermont.
The last four tie will be played at the ‘neutral’ Matmut Stadium Gerland and although Leinster will occupy the home dressing room this weekend, Leo Cullen’s men will have few other home comforts in France.
Clermont have been allocated the majority of the 32,000 tickets for Sunday’s game, with at least 2,000 Leinster supporters expected to make the trip for the biggest game of the province’s season.
“It’s exciting times for the club and something we’ve been looking forward to for a while. Everyone is just excited for the challenge,” Ruddock said.
“Having played over in France before in big games, it can be intimidating. There are a lot of guys in this squad who’ve suffered defeat over there, and experienced and learned from that, and there are a lot of guys who’ve had wins over there.
“I think we’re well-equipped to go over and put in a performance but we know the difficulty of the challenge ahead is massive. Playing away in France against one of the best teams in Europe is always going to be tough.
“We need a bit of voice. I can only imagine there will be a lot of Clermont fans there and it will be really noisy and loud as it always is playing over in France, but I think that will excite everyone.
“We’ve got enough experience to deal with that. If the Leinster fans can make it over and make it extra special it will give us a boost.”
Ruddock, who captained Leinster to victory in Galway last Saturday, is again pushing for inclusion this week and his chances of a starting berth could be boosted if Jack Conan fails to recover from a neck injury.
With Sean O’Brien also returning to the mix, competition for places in the back row is a strong as ever even with Jamie Heaslip’s continued unavailability.
“I hope I’m in the mix and within a chance but I’m also well aware of how well everyone else is playing and the quality we have all over the park,” the flanker continued.
“Obviously I haven’t had as much game time at the start of the season but I feel like I’m starting to hit some form now. It’s going to be tough to get into the team but either way I’m looking forward to a massive week of preparation and we’ll see what happens with the personal stuff towards the end of the week.”
After a day off yesterday, the Leinster squad returned to the training paddock this morning and Ruddock admitted there’s a different mood around the camp this week.
“We’re very excited and focused. That’s because of who we’re playing, where we’re playing and how much playing in Europe means to this club. It will be a pretty special occasion to be part of.”
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