Munster look to boost knock-out hopes with Castres win

Colm Kinsella


Colm Kinsella


Munster look to boost knock-out hopes with Castres win

Munster head coach Johann van Graan

MUNSTER will look to take control of Pool 2 of the Heineken Champions Cup this Sunday when hosting French champions Castres Olympique at Thomond Park, 1pm, in the first of two back-to-back fixtures. 

Johann van Graan’s table topping Munster side currently enjoy a two-point lead over second-placed Castres in Pool 2 ahead of two meetings on successive weekends. 

The sides will renew rivalry in Round 4 of the competition on Saturday, December 15 at 5.30pm Irish time.

Sunday’s game at Thomond Park will be 15th meeting between Munster Rugby and Castres Olympique in European competition, and no other clubs have met as often in the tournament.

Munster are unbeaten in their last seven clashes against Castres, winning six times and drawing once, with the wins, including a 45-point victory in Round 6 last season which was their biggest winning margin against TOP 14 opposition.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan was facing into his first European Cup fixtures as the province’s head coach 12 months ago.

Van Graan said: “Look, I would like to say a lot better prepared than a year ago. Obviously, it went pretty well the first two games against Leicester. At least a year in you have kinda had everything now for a second time, last year was the first time, now it's the second time that we are going into this block.

“But the challenge remains the same, we have the French champions coming here and then we have to go over there next week. They are a quality opposition and like I said we have to really make sure that we get our planning done in the week.

“They play in a very specific way. I believe that is why they got such positive results and you don't go away from home in France, win two games, a quarter and a semi-final, and  go to Stade de France and win the Top 14 if you are not quality. 

“Like I said from day one, it is never been about me, it has been about the team. We believe in our team. For me personally I have enjoyed every single moment of it, I do every day.

“It is never work when I drive here in the morning. It is all about coming to enjoy the day, enjoy what we are about and where we, hopefully, are going.

“It is no different than a year ago. The most important thing is what we do and players are happy and the management keep growing and we are taking each day a step of growth and becoming a better team. I think we have done it over the past few weeks.

“Obviously, European weeks are different because there are only six of them and you've got to perform in all six, get some kind of a result to hopefully put you in a position in round 6 to qualify for the next stage, so we all look forward to these games.”