McGahan predicting French trench warfare

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan is predicting Saturday’s crucial Heineken Cup round two clash with Castres Olympique in Toulouse will develop into ‘trench warfare’.

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan is predicting Saturday’s crucial Heineken Cup round two clash with Castres Olympique in Toulouse will develop into ‘trench warfare’.

McGahan has stressed the need for his side’s pack to front up against the Top 14 side as they did in last weekend’s epic opening round victory over Northampton. Castres have opted to switch Saturday’s game from their home ground of Stade Pierre Antoin which has a capacity of 10,000 to the Stade Ernest Wallon in Toulouse which can accommodate 18,000 supporters.

Saturday’s tie will be the 11th meeting of the sides in the Heineken Cup with Munster enjoying a 7-3 advantage on the head-to-head count to date.

“Castres are a very good and a very consistent side. We have seen that in the Top 14 over the past two and a bit years,” Tony McGahan sad this Wednesday at UL.

“They have certainly ground sides down with regard to the intensity of their play, especially at home. They are going to be a typical trench warfare sort of side. It is going to be a real battle and we certainly need our forwards to come to the fore again like they did last week.”

Castres’ decision to switch the game to Toulouse doesn’t appear to have entirely found favour with the French club’s supporters. Reports indicate 10,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday’s tie.

Coach McGahan was delighted with the attitude and resilience his players’ showed in grinding out the crucial home win over Northampton at Thomond Park last weekend.

“It was only those inside the camp who had the true belief about getting the result. That’s all that really matters,” McGahan said.

“The players stuck to it right to the end and we had to make sure we were right in there at the end to get that result.

“It was real good for the squad, but also for the supporters. The atmosphere was terrific, the entertainment put on by both sides, the intensity and the pace of the game was terrific, it was a high quality match. It was a true indicator of where this competition is and how difficult it is to get a result at any point in time, round one and anywhere else.”

McGahan faces several big selection decisions again this week. Heineken Cup debutants, Peter O’Mahony, Danny Barnes and Conor Murray impressed last week as did Donnacha Ryan who was making his second start in the competition. Experienced internationals Denis Leamy, Donncha O’Callaghan and Tomas O’Leary also made significant contributions when sprung from the replacement bench.

“It is difficult for players who are not playing. Everyone wants to play and we can only out 23 in the squad,” Tony McGahan pointed out.

Munster have named an unchanged extended squad for this weekend’s game. Prop John Ryan who was called into the starting day squad when Marcus Horan was forced to withdraw last weekend, is retained.

Horan came through training on Tuesday, and if he does so this Thursday, the 34-year-old will travel to France.

MUNSTER SQUAD - V Castres: Marcus Horan, John Ryan, Wian du Preez, BJ Botha, John Hayes, Stephen Archer, Damien Varley, Denis Fogarty, Donnacha Ryan, Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan, Denis Leamy, Conor Murray, Tomas O’Leary, Peter Stringer, Duncan Williams, Ronan O’Gara, Ian Keatley, Scott Deasy, Johne Murphy, Doug Howlett, Danny Barnes, Will Chambers, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley