The last time Munster played Castres, Rory Scannell was a Leaving Certificate student watching from his sofa as Ronan O’Gara sent the game-winning drop goal between the posts.
This Sunday Scannell will be anchoring his province’s midfield as the men in red begin their 23rd season in Europe.
The game has moved on, even since that November day in 2011, when O’Gara’s last-minute drop, a week on from his heroic kick against Northampton Saints at Thomond Park, sealed a 27-24 victory at Stade Ernest Wallon in Toulouse.
Only captain Peter O’Mahony, scrum-half Conor Murray, and fly-half Ian Keatley, an unused sub that day, survive in Munster colours for the renewal of rivalries at Castres’ Stade Pierre Fabre this weekend, yet Scannell, now 23 and an Ireland international, is expecting exactly the same sort of tight arm-wrestle that played out six seasons ago.
“I was actually watching that (2011) one at home. I think I was in fifth or sixth year,” Scannell said.
“Obviously they wouldn’t be as familiar to a lot of the squad over the last few years but a couple of the — they probably won’t like me saying this — the older guys will have remembered going over there.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge. The discipline is going to be key and the physicality. If we can front up in those two areas I think we’ll be in with a good shout.”
Ill-discipline was Munster’s downfall last Saturday at Aviva Stadium when they allowed Leinster’s Johnny Sexton to kick his side into a winning lead in their PRO14 derby clash.
Scannell watched most of it from the bench as Munster boss Rassie Erasmus experimented with Tyler Bleyendaal at inside centre, not wholly successfully.
If nothing else, it hardened the director of rugby’s belief that Scannell is his first-choice number 12.
“I’d have liked to have gotten a bit more game-time, but Rassie said we were going to try a few things going into Europe. I thought we actually played quite well at the weekend.
“Our discipline let us down a bit any time we got any bit of momentum.
“It was a case of just trying to make as big an impact as I could when I got on the field.
“It’s great to be given the nod going into Europe. It’s going to be a big challenge this week and if I’m starting I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“Physicality is going to be massive. Pete talked about it after the game, our discipline needs to be spot on going over to France, because at the weekend when you’ve a kicker of Johnny’s standard you are going to struggle if you after giving away a lot of penalties.
"They are going to be the two keys things for us going into the weekend.”
Just as Leinster had Sexton, Castres will have a French Test scrum-half in Rory Kockott kicking at goal, another reminder that poor discipline and inaccuracy will be punished by the boot.
“It’s going to be the same situation. If we do not give away the controllable ones that we gave away at the weekend and keep the penalty count as low as possible we’ll have a good chance going over.”
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