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Finally, better injury news for Clermont

By James Harrington
Morgan Parra playing for Clermont

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Top 14 champions Clermont look to have turned an injury corner heading into the crucial fifth round of the Champions Cup.

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A week after teenage winger Samuel Ezeala suffered a horrific head injury in the Top 14 defeat to Racing 92, last season’s losing European finalists have welcomed centre Remi Lamerat and hooker Benjamin Kayser back from injury.

“It’s good to see Remi back in the squad, and Benjamin too,” head coach Franck Azema told journalists this week as his squad prepares to meet Pool 2 bottom club Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens.

For a while, Clermont faced the distinct possibility of having only six backs registered with Champions Cup organisers for the weekend’s trip. But, three-quarter stocks are improving, with Lamerat’s return, and Isaia Toeava avoiding sanction after being cited for a dangerous tackle on Geoffrey Palis in the New Year’s Eve defeat to Castres.

The club also quietly registered Luke McAlister on its European squad list this week. The former All Black has not played for the club since breaking a bone in his hand in his second match after joining the club as a medical joker in early December. Azema refused to confirm whether McAlister was in the frame for the Northampton game, saying only: “Either this weekend or next weekend, we hope to get him back.”

Meanwhile, Fijian-born France international Noa Nakaitaci – who has been out with a knee-injury since April – is set to train with the rest of the squad on Monday, Azema said. “There’s been clear improvement in the past two weeks,” he added.

Scottish international Greig Laidlaw, too, is expected to return from a broken leg ahead of the Six Nations, which kicks off in less than a month.

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Despite the returnees, Clermont’s injury list remains horrifyingly long.

Samuel Ezeala, Camille Lopez, Wesley Fofana, Aurelien Rougerie, David Strettle, Sitaleki Timani, Charlie Cassang, Patricio Fernandez, Damian Penaud and Alivereti Raka among the backs filling up chairs in the infirmary.

They are joined by forwards Loni Uhila, Judicael Cancoriet, and Peceli Yato.

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