Bourgoin due big Cup scalp, warns Kidney

MUNSTER coach Declan Kidney has named a squad of 28 in advance of Sunday’s historic Heineken Cup clash with Bourgoin in Geneva.

Already without the suspended Alan Quinlan, along with injured players Trevor Halstead, Anthony Horgan and John O’Sullivan, he hopes to be able to name Jeremy Manning (soft tissue shoulder injury) in the 22-man squad later.

Anthony Foley has recovered from a shoulder injury and other front-liners like Jerry Flannery and Denis Leamy should also be fit.

The tie will be the first major rugby match in the Swiss city, and it’s expected that Munster will provide the bulk of the support in the 30,000-seater stadium.

Still, coach Kidney is taking nothing for granted.

Bourgoin have had a disastrous campaign, but Kidney believes they’re due a Heineken Cup scalp: “They’ve already done a giant-killing act this week by beating Biarritz in the French Championship. They have been disappointed with their form so far, but they will be targeting this match, on a huge international stage in Geneva, to beat the European champions. It could be the springboard for them as they’ve got big matches down the road in the next few weeks, particularly against Stade Francais.”

Kidney isn’t worried by the move to Geneva’s purpose-built soccer stadium: “It will be a bit shorter and a bit tighter from what we can gather but it’s a magnificent ground; the dressing rooms and other facilities are top-class. It’s up to us to make the best use of them,” said the coach.

Kidney is under no illusions that it will be hugely difficult, noting that Bourgoin conceded their first penalty to Biarritz four minutes from half-time last week. “That,” he said, “showed a lot of discipline against a quality team like Biarritz.”

He insisted: “This is the game they’re obviously targeting in Europe.

“They are on centre stage, and French teams like these type of challenges.”

But Kidney is not worried travelling to strange surroundings having already experienced several wins in France.

“It’s just another challenge; we’ve got to front-up and accept that it will be a hugely difficult match. At this stage, we can only accept that it is really a step into the unknown.

“But we will have the fans to spur us on, and it’s even more of a spur to know that these people have made further sacrifices to head for Geneva, not the easiest places to get to from some parts of Ireland.

“They’re just amazing people; we don’t expect to have the huge numbers we’ve had at away games in the past, but I still expect we will have big support. That’s a big boost for everyone concerned with this team,” he said.

Captain Paul O’Connell is also convinced Munster face a huge challenge.

He said yesterday: “We don’t believe we have any given right to win away from home. We’re two-thirds of our way through the pool section and we’re doing well.

“We probably couldn’t be doing any better. But we do realise that with two games to go, it could all go wrong. In the past, we’ve always been under more pressure going into our last couple of pool games, so it’s important that we remember that and prove to ourselves that we can cope with a different kind of pressure.”

MUNSTER (from): Forwards: J. Hayes, M. Horan, F. Pucciariello, D. Hurley, T. Buckley, F. Sheahan, A. Kyriacou, J. Flannery, P. O’Connell, M. O’Driscoll, D. O’Callaghan, C. Wyatt, A. Foley, D. Leamy, D. Wallace, J. Coughlan.

Backs: P. Stringer, T. O’Leary, R. O’Gara, J. Manning, E. Hickey, L. Mafi, M. Lawlor, I. Dowling, J. Kelly, S. Payne, C. Cullen.

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