HOOKER Damien Varley admitted it was ‘very humbling’ to be chosen to lead Munster in this Sunday’s mammoth Heineken Cup semi-final clash with Toulon at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille (3.30pm Irish time).
Speaking at the eve of match press briefing at the impressive 41,000-capacity Stade Velodrome, Varley said it was a huge honour to captain the province in their 11th Heineken Cup semi-final.
“To date, this is certainly the biggest game of my career,” Varley said.
“It is the first semi-final I have started in my years with Munster. I am extremely excited by that. To captain Munster at any stage is a huge honour. To captain Munster at this side of the competition is a huge honour, probably very humbling considering the group that is in it. It is an exciting day for me and my family, but, captain or not, it doesn’t take away from the task at hand. It is still a semi-final and that is the way it will be treated.”
Rob Penney said the selection of Damien Varley as captain was an ‘obvious choice’ for the team. The coach reported everyone in the Munster camp to be in ‘good nick’ ahead of the semi-final
Following the press conference, the Munster players held their captain’s run at the match stadium. A massive development programme on the Stade Velodrome is nearing completion. Capacity at the stadium has been reduced from 60,000 to just over 40,000 while the work is ongoing, which includes a spectacular roof which is almost complete.
Damien Varley said the players were excited by the prospect of taking on Heineken Cup holders and current Top 14 leader, Toulon, this weekend.
Damien Varley said “Yes, there is a huge air of excitement within the group - definitely. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be. This is a very special competition for Munster. We have always said that. To come up against a huge team like Toulon down here, we are all extremely excited. It is a huge opportunity and a huge task for us over the next 24 hours. We are all excited. We have settled in well and all really looking forward to the task.
“Our preparation has not been any different this week. We have been in these situations before. I think it is a mistake to change anything. Obviously, your mindset is a bit more heightened with the anticipation, the support about the place. Certainly, from a preparation point of view, we are doing everything the same and just fine-tuning areas of the game.
“Toulon are a fantastic team, very strong. It is going to be a huge battle, especially up front. The calibre of players they have is huge and it is going to be a big task for us. But it is Cup rugby and there is going to be a huge mental element to it. We have a young side, but we are led by a few senior guys who have been here numerous times. To take on a side like Toulon, it doesn’t get any more exciting than this in the semi-final.”