Munster coach Johann van Graan describes Toulon as 'an unbelievable team and brand'

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent


Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent


Munster coach Johann van Graan describes Toulon as 'An unbelievable team and brand'

Old foes: David Smith, Toulon, in action against Keith Earls when the two sides last met in the Heineken Cup in the 2014 semi final. The European heavyweights will meet once again in March

MUNSTER’S rugby players, not involved with the Ireland squad for the Nat West 6 Nations Championship, are on a week off as the province’s rugby fans look forward to a 10th home quarter-final in the Champions Cup.

Clinical Munster secured a record 17th European Cup quarter-final clash with French heavyweights Toulon, thanks to a 48-3, six-try, thumping of Castres Olympique at Thomond Park on Sunday.

The quarter-final clash is due to take place at Thomond Park on Easter  Saturday, March 31 at 3.15pm. 

Munster’s next competitive fixture will be the Saturday, February 10 Guinness Pro14 fixture with Zebre at Thomond Park, 7.35pm, as the competition takes a break for the start off the 6 Nations Championship.

Munster have confirmed ticket details for their Champions Cup quarter-final showdown with three-time winners Toulon in Limerick.

The province’s quarter-final ticket allocation will be distributed through Munster’s rugby clubs, the Munster Rugby Supporters Club and 10 Year Ticket Holders.

Should any tickets remain after these allocations have been processed, they will be released to other long term ticket holders and season ticket holders.

Quarter-final opponents Toulon are entitled to 25% of each ticket category.

Should Munster win at home, the Irish province will be away to either Clermont Auvergne or Racing 92 in the semi-finals.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan described quarter-final opponents Toulon as an ‘unbelievable team and brand.’

“I only saw a glimpse of their game (v Scarlets on Saturday), obviously I haven't spent any amount of time on them.

“I know Duane Vermeulen very well, he's a massive part of Toulon. I've coached a few guys who play there – Marcel van der Merwe, Juandre Kruger, Bryan Habana, a quality side, they've been doing pretty well in Europe over the past few years.

“They're an unbelievable team and brand, we look forward to that game.

“A quarter-final in Europe, it'll be my first, I'm very glad it's here at Thomond Park.

“I'll get a bit of distance from rugby now and enjoy tonight, get my thoughts in line and as a squad we'll reconvene in a week's time and go from there.

“I’ve read a bit about quarter-finals and home teams are in a very good spot to win it.

“Obviously with the home crowd, just to experience what again tonight what happened out there, the noise level, the way the people of Munster stick to this group of players and this team. So obviously it’s a lot easier to play at home.

“Imagine if we’d had to go to La Rochelle or Toulon or wherever. Like I said I don’t want to sound too clever. I’ve only been here a few weeks so it will be my first quarter-final, but I’m very, very happy that it’s at Thomond Park.

“Like I said before I think it’s a reward for the 22,000-odd people that stayed for three hours, and to see that performance from their team.

“I got a bit of goose bumps before the game when the team ran around the field. It seemed a lot louder than before, and we knew this was going to be tough but once the team got momentum they got an extra few gears and I’m very happy about the home support.”

Johann Van Graan added: "My initial reaction to earning a home quarter-final is that I am very proud to be part of this club.

"Everyone will think about the result, the way that we did it, but to the people of Munster, the ground staff who did so well to get that field in playing condition.

"For a supporter to know that this game was going to be postponed for three hours, go away, come back, stayed until late night to give the support that they did. 

"To the management, we had to re-adapt our diet of what we ate, our strapping times and then to the players for that performance out there, it is not the score, it is the way that we played.

"My initial reaction is that I'm very proud to be part of this. That is the reason why I came here (to Munster) - to be part of something special.”

Meanwhile, Sky Sports pundit and former England international Stuart Barnes said Toulon, along with Saracens – who travel to Dublin to face Leinster – are the two clubs teams didn’t want to be paired against at home.

Barnes said: “Apart from Saracens, Toulon is the team you don't want coming to your patch. Beaten away in the last two quarter-finals, they'll be underdogs all right, but Munster will respect their bite.

“For much of the second half, they looked the likelier winners against the Scarlets. That in itself tells you about their team.

“Home advantage is everything for Munster but they'll have to do a lot more than turn up and let the crowd roar them into the last four.”

Meanwhile, the Munster A side will travel to face Leinster A in the British and Irish Cup quarter-finals also on the Easter weekend of March 30-31 and April 1.