Even as the celebrations of Racing’s Champions Cup win over Munster still echoed around La Defense Arena, head coach Laurent Travers was looking to the future.
Away from the pitch, which had been transformed into an apres-ski party for fans, Travers refused to dwell on the victory.
“We won, we’ve qualified. But the important thing is what happens next,” he said.
“It’s up to us to do what we have to do, to stay focused and to be able to repeat this kind of performance — not just in rugby terms, but also in mental terms. It is important to keep our feet on the ground because we have qualified for the quarter-finals, nothing more. The next step is to make sure we have home advantage.”
He praised his side’s performance, particularly the bench players who reinvigorated Racing as they twice came from behind to maintain their unbeaten record in this season’s competition and joined Top 14 rivals Toulouse and Clermont in the last eight.
“This game is about patience, but above all work,” he said. “It was important to be strong, strong in our heads and, when we say that it’s a 23-player game, we showed it again.”
Racing reached their third Champions Cup quarter- finals in as many seasons, though the game was not without controversy.
Both Teddy Thomas’s touchdowns relied heavily on absent camera angles, but there was no doubt about Virimi Vakatawa or Juan Imhoff’s late scores as Racing hit Munster with a three-try knockout in the closing 10 minutes.
Finn Russell was full of praise for recalled France international winger Thomas: “He’s on fire just now. He’s hitting his peak form — which is incredible for us as a team.
But it was an incredibly hard first half. Our discipline let us down — we gave them nine easy points straight away and we lacked a little bit of precision when we got down to their finish zone. We managed to execute the chances we got in the second half and got a great result.”
Player of the match Vakatawa played down his performance.
“It was tough,” he told France 2.
“We always knew it was going to be difficult — and we knew we couldn’t give Munster anything all the way to the end if we were going to win. This result is down to work of the team. We’ve worked very hard all week, and it paid off today — to qualify for the quarter-finals a week before we go to Saracens, we’re pleased.”
Brice Dulin, who came in at fullback for the injured Simon Zebo, added: “For Munster, this was the match of the season. We knew they needed to win to keep their Champions Cup hopes alive — and if they had won here today, that would have piled the pressure on us. We had a slow start to the season, but we’re building nicely now. The Champions Cup is a sprint compared to the Top 14, and we’re pleased to be in the quarters.”