CLERMONT Auvergne may have a home European Challenge Cup quarter-final in the bag but they are heading to Rodney Parade with a star-studded side and a demand from their boss not to lower their standards, writes Chris Kirwan.

On the face of it there is little to play for in the Pool One finale in Newport with the Dragons unable to catch second-placed Northampton for one of the best runners-up spots while Clermont are already assured of a last-eight tie at Stade Marcel Michelin on the last weekend of March.

But the Top 14 leaders have one of the best squads in Europe and will look to flex their muscles ahead of their return to league rugby.

Coach Franck Azema has left out France internationals Wesley Fofana, Camille Lopez, Damian Penaud, Morgan Parra, Arthur Iturria and Sebastien Vahaamahina ahead of the Six Nations.

However, he still picks a powerful side featuring an all-international back three of England's Nick Abendanon, Australia's Peter Betham and France's Remy Grosso and a midfield of All Black George Moala and Fijian Apisai Naqalevu.

Up front he calls on number eight and captain Damien Chouly (pictured below) and his fellow France internationals Benjamin Kayser and Paul Jedrasiak and Springboks lock Flip van der Merwe.

"We know that the coming (Six Nations) period will be delicate," said Azema. "We will have to deliver high-level displays without our internationals and without the long-term injured. That's about ten players unavailable.

"This is an opportunity to give playing time to young players in the group or players who have not been involved.

"But there is no question of lowering our requirements or the quality of what we want to produce on the field.

"Everyone who wears the shirt of ASM must have this appetite and the right state of mind, that the group has shown since the beginning of the season.

"We will see what we deliver, but there is no question of any compromise on our mentality and the desire to wear the jersey."

Clermont have not treated the Challenge Cup with distain and, unlike many French sides, have registered and played their big guns in the tournament.

"At the beginning of the season, people were wondering how we would play this competition," said Azema.

"For us things were very clear. We would respect this competition by playing it thoroughly.

"We have one more game in Newport that we have to prepare for with the same appetite and behaviour."

And Azema expects the Dragons to be just as feisty as they were in December when they battled to be just 35-24 down in the final quarter at Stade Marcel Michelin before the hosts pulled away to win 49-24.

"These are not teams that have the habit of letting go, even though they cannot qualify," he said. "They are at home, so we must expect a tough match.

"That's why we need to be in place mentally and physically to compete with the Welsh and make a big performance during this trip."

Clermont: N Abendanon, P Betham, G Moala, A Naqalevu, R Grosso, P Fernandez, C Cassang, B Kakabadze, B Kayser, S Falatea, P Jedrasiak, F Van der Merwe, J Ruaud, A Fischer, D Chouly (captain). Replacements: Y Beheregaray, L Uhila, M Simutoga, J van Tonder, M Lemardelet, K Viallard, D Lavernhe, T Vili