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'Toulon are all about pressure': Hines expects no favours in bid for 2nd Heineken medal

“Yeah, you could say it’s going to be physical” Said the ex-Leinster lock in glib mood..

Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

CLERMONT AUVERGNE LOCK Nathan Hines doesn’t sound in the mood to offer platitudes in the build-up to his club’s first ever Heineken Cup final.

Wondering whether a European final will be physical is like wondering whether night will follow day. Hence Hines’ bemused reaction in an interview with the ERC this week.

“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?

“So, yeah, you could say it’s going to be physical.”

That’s us all told, then.

On Saturday, the Aviva Stadium represents a homecoming of sorts for Hines after two years with Leinster. However, the Wagga Wagga born Scotland international knows Toulon too well to expect the venue to influence on-field matters much.

“I feel really comfortable at the Aviva, but obviously, that doesn’t mean we won’t have to work really hard to win.” Hines said.

“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.”

Despite all the impressive talents available to Vern Cotter, Hines is one of only two players with a Heineken Cup medal already safely locked away. That 2011 experience in Cardiff will surely provide hope if things should go awry in the first half.

“I know we were losing 22-6 at half-time,” he says of Leinster’s win over Northampton, “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 Heineken 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.”

Discipline

Much of the focus, not least from the SkySports cameras, will be on how Jonny Wilkinson steers the Toulon tanker back at the scene of his Grand Slam success. Hines though, will rarely get a chance to think far beyond the pack and the knack of retaining discipline in the heat of battle.

“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.”

The style of rugby that the Auvergne side is capable of is one of the reasons that both neutrals and bookmakers have made them favourites this weekend. With the Bouclier de Brennus also up for grabs in the coming weeks, the pressure to come away with at least one trophy is palpable. The men from the Massif Central chased the Top14 title without reward for long enough, Hines is hoping focusing on their own processes can finally put Clermont on Europe’s throne..

“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 Heineken Cup, and our sole aim this weekend is to win the Heineken – How we want to play is more pressing than any degree of expectation.”

Heineken Cup final tickets are still available.

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