OSPREYS coach, Seán Holley, last night began the mind-games ahead Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Munster, suggesting that Ireland’s Grand Slam win will put more pressure on the European champions.
Not surprisingly Holley has labelled Tony McGahan’s side favourites for the Easter Sunday tie in Thomond Park, but added his team will be mentally tuned in fir the Welsh region’s toughest challenge in its short existence.
The Ospreys are mere novices at Heineken Cup level having made just 37 appearances in the tournament since its foundation in 2003, while Munster – who’ve qualified for a record 10th successive last eight tie – will hit the century mark this weekend.
Holley is under no illusions about his side’s task, but says they have the “belief and confidence” and “appetite” to the upset the two-time champions.
“We certainly have a group of players with an appetite to go and prove that they can produce the goods on such a stage,” said Holley who will, however, be missing Gavin Henson, Duncan Jones, Ian Evans and Jonathan Thomas through injury.
“Obviously Munster will have confidence and momentum – and will be favourites – but we have got the incentive of a home semi-final in the Millennium Stadium and the dream of making the final.”
But, crucially, Holley has cranked up the pressure on Munster in a tie that will see up to 25 Grand Slam champions from both squads in action.
“The disappointment of the Six Nations and the disappointment that this whole squad has from going out at the quarter-final last season will bin the fact that Ireland won a Grand Slam. We are just concentrating on ourselves and I hope Ireland’s Grand Slam will put more pressure on them.
“We have the belief and confidence but I just have to look at our players to know we’ve got enough. When the draw was made for the quarter-finals, my guess would have been that no one would have wanted to face us.
“We have to take confidence from that and we know what is at stake.”
Munster head coach, Tony McGahan, has quickly put last weekend’s 22-5 victory over Leinster behind him and has called on his team to put together an 80-minute performance against the Welsh super region.
“We have reached the stage of the Heineken Cup where it is all or nothing – if you don’t perform in the 80 minutes of a knock-out game you are out of the competition,” said McGahan.
“It was always our intention to be competitive in both the Heineken Cup and the domestic league and to have both dreams still alive at this stage of the season is excellent. It was a fantastic result against Leinster in a very attritional match and to win an important game like that going into this huge weekend was just what we needed.”
And while the score stands at 2-0 to Munster in Heineken Cup clashes with the Ospreys – and the Irish province won 25-21 at the Liberty Stadium in January in the Magners League – McGahan insists there will be no complacency from his squad boasting 11 Grand Slam winners.
“Although we have been in this position in the past and it is not a new experience for the players, we do have tremendous respect for the Ospreys – not only their international players but for all of those in a quality squad.
“The Ospreys have got a pretty dangerous and confrontational pack of forwards, they run a good line-out and employ an aggressive defensive system. They also have a number of key individuals like Shane Williams, James Hook and Mike Phillips who can make long breaks and really attack and challenge opposing formations from deep.”
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