Munster travel to France as massive underdogs

Munster's Heineken Cup adventure has taken them to the south of France today for a semi-final shoot-out with Clermont Auvergne today.

Munster travel to France as massive underdogs

Munster's Heineken Cup adventure has taken them to the south of France today for a semi-final shoot-out with Clermont Auvergne today.

Rob Penney's side will start the game as underdogs as they go up against the French Top-14 leaders and a side that are unbeaten in this season's Heineken Cup.

The French side will also be out to avenge last season's semi-final defeat to Leinster.

But Munster can take confidence from their stunning quarter-final win over Harlequins at The Stoop as they look to write another chapter in the province's history.

Paul O'Connell believes that his side can raise their performance yet again, but Munster boss Rob Penney has warned his players they will face a Clermont Auvergne side of Test-match quality.

Star-studded Clermont have won all their fixtures in this season’s competition and are viewed as the favourites to win the tournament, having flattered to deceive in previous campaigns.

Munster’s cause has also not been helped by the loss to injury of wing Doug Howlett and lock Donncha O’Callaghan.

Penney knows playing a Clermont squad who count no fewer than five All Blacks among their number means Munster are effectively facing a Test outfit.

But the Kiwi believes Munster have identified areas where they can target their hosts.

He said: “Clermont have coped with the pressure exerted on them really well with some good performances on the road as well.

“We are basically playing a national side.

“Having four All Blacks as back-up suggests they have got a bit of depth.

“But every team has some vulnerable areas – though not all of the time or in the same areas – so it will depend on the squad they pick.

“What they have got is the ability that as soon as there is a semblance of an opportunity they just ramp up the intensity massively and leave you behind.

“It is what they do from unstructured play with so much firepower they have in Napolioni Nalaga, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Wesley Fofana and Aurelien Rougerie that they turn the heat up on you really quickly and you are left floundering.

“It is going to be massively challenging but hopefully we have been able to identify some areas we can have a crack at and see if we can create some breaches.”

One man in the Clermont ranks with plenty of experience of facing Munster is former Scotland lock Nathan Hines.

Hines won the Heineken Cup with Leinster in 2011 and enjoyed several tussles with their provincial rivals.

But the 2009 Lions’ forward says there has been no need for him to remind his team-mates of the threat posed by Munster’s renowned nous and dogged spirit.

“The backroom staff here are pretty good,” he said.

“They don’t need me to tell them just how much quality Munster can bring to a Heineken Cup knockout game – particularly after their win away to Harlequins.”

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox