ASM Clermont Auvergne head coach Vern Cotter has finally admitted that a league and European Cup double is very much in mind ahead of this weekend's Heineken Cup semi-final against reigning champions Leinster Rugby at Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux.
Sunday's clash on French soil will determine who heads to Twickenham Stadium to join the winners of Saturday's first semi-final between Ulster Rugby and Edinburgh Rugby at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Like Leinster, who have earned top seeding in the RaboDirect PRO12 Play-Offs, Clermont are alongside Toulouse at the top of the Top14 and are fighting on two fronts for silverware. Earlier in the season Cotter said it would be impossible to win both, but after his side's Heineken Cup quarter-final win over English champions Saracens in Watford he has changed his tune.
"It's about spreading our wings, putting Clermont on the map, and getting that wider recognition," Cotter explained to Daily Telegraph rugby writer Mick Cleary.
"There was a perception of Clermont as a poor-performing side, given their resources. We've had to try to alter that, establish better values, get consistency there, be prepared to fight on two fronts, domestic and European, and want to do both well.
"The Top 14 was the priority. It no longer is. We're going for both."
Cotter's men will be roared on by 20,000 travelling fans from the town in Bordeaux and that could be one of the things that tips the balance in favour of the French side. Only Toulouse, four times, and Brive, once, have taken the Heineken Cup back to France and Cotter wants Clermont to be the third team to conquer Europe.
"I'm convinced that our fans will influence the players' performance, especially at the beginning of the game, and push them into the battle. As a coach, you search for something in the hours before the game to give the team a lift," said Cotter.
"I was thinking of something tactical or technical as we approached the ground in Watford in the quarter-finals and then we saw our fans massed outside, waving flags and singing. Words weren't necessary.
"It's a generational thing, too, at Clermont. Entire families come along, grandparents down to kids. I love that sense of attachment. It's a tribal thing. You know, in the southern hemisphere the talk is about the product, here it's about the game and winning it. There's such a strong link between team and town."
The game will pitch former Scotland and British & Irish Lions lock Nathan Hines against many the Leinster team with who he won the Heineken Cup last season, and will send Cotter into a coaching battle with his great friend, and fellow Kiwi, Joe Schmidt. It was Cotter who enlisted Schmidt's help at Clermont, and now the former coaching partners are both chasing European rugby's ultimate prize.
"We'll have a beer after the game because Joe is a true friend," admitted Cotter. "We're aware of Leinster's strengths - it will be their fourth successive Heineken Cup semi-final and they are bound to be very confident.
"But we have the weapons to cause them trouble and we must ensure we impose our game on them and play to our strengths. We won't spend our week watching them on video and talking about their game, we have enough on our plate getting our game right.
"We have improved and we have more experience. I think we are able to adapt our rugby to our opponents and to the conditions. We want to deprive Leinster of the ball
"It promises to be a great game of rugby and, as ever, it will come down to a little bit of luck, a little bit of brilliance and a little bit of everything."
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.