Munster face 'hell of a tough' European fixtures run

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Munster face 'hell of a tough' European fixtures run

Munster's Ireland international Simon Zebo playing soccer with head of fitness Aled Walters and Chris Farrell at a squad training at UL on Tuesday

MUNSTER Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has admitted the province are in for a ‘hell of a tough' six games in the pool fixtures of this season’s Champions Cup.

Munster begin their quest to qualify for the knock-out stages of the European Cup for a 17th time when facing French Top 14 side Castres Olympique at the Stade Pierre Fabre this Sunday, 1pm Irish time, live on Sky Sports.

Munster will face another Top 14 side, Racing 92, and Premiership giants Leicester Tigers in the pool stages for a second successive season.

Munster are hopeful that second-row Jean Kleyn and Irish international Simon Zebo will be available to play against the French side.

Erasmus said: “I guess it's a tough pool. I don't think we'll catch teams on the bounce. Teams probably know now that we'll compete at this level when teams normally last year wouldn't have thought us as being competitive.

”So we won't catch guys off guard and it's going to be a hell of a tough six games.”

There is sure to be a degree of emotion attached to Sunday’s game for players, coaches and supporters alike as it was at the same weekend last season that Munster head coach Anthony Foley passed away suddenly in Paris.

Sunday will be the 13th European Cup meeting between Munster and Castres, making it the most played fixture in the competition’s history.

Munster have won nine of their 12 previous meetings and Castres are without a win in any of their 10 previous meetings with an Irish province.

Castres are sitting 11th in the Top 14 table, with two wins from their opening seven league fixtures, but one of those successes came at home to Clermont Auvergne.