Last eight spot at stake, but Munster not looking past Chiefs

Donn O'Sullivan, Sports Editor


Donn O'Sullivan, Sports Editor


Last eight spot at stake, but Munster not looking past Chiefs

Jean Kleym is tackled by Henry Slade of Exeter during the 10-10 draw

MUNSTER fans might have one eye on the quarter finals, but head coach Johann van Graan and his charges are very much focused on the task at hand.

Munster face Exeter at 5.30pm on Saturday in what is a must win for the home side. Should Munster pick up a win, they will qualify for the quarter finals for the 18th time.

While Edinburgh's result against Montpelier on Friday night might put a home quarter final out of Munster's hands, van Graan is preaching to his players that there will be no talk of last eight spots unless they win this weekend.

“We're not looking at semi-finals and finals, we're looking at Exeter on Saturday afternoon. To get into a quarter-final only, you've got to win on Saturday. That's the only place where our minds are at.

“I said after Round 3, a lot of people said that's Exeter out of Europe and I said definitely not, that's a team of character and that's a team I respect a lot. They'll come out fighting on Saturday afternoon at Thomond” admitted van Graan.

His sentiment, of concentrating on the win and only on Munster's result was echoed by Munster's South African second row Jean Kleyn.

“It doesn’t really matter to us. We are not really an opposition facing team. We are focussing on us, our processes and how we are developing as a team and a squad.

“This weekend isn’t about Exeter and keeping them out of it. It is about focusing on us and getting the best possible results for us as a team.

“Hopefully we walk away with five points at the end of the day and a win at home. It is our first match at Thomond Park this year and we were unbeaten there last year. We would like to do that again” concluded Kleyn who has been in excellent form since his return from injury against Ulster over Christmas.

Munster's opponents Exeter have something to play for too of course. Their bonus point win over Castres last weekend, at home, sees them just four points behind Munster in the table.

Munster, who themselves could not secure all five points at home to Castres, know that Exeter are capable of winning on the road.

“Statistically, they do keep the ball the best in Europe and they do keep it for the longest and you’ve got to respect that.

“So your discipline has got to be key and you’ve got to adapt to the referee and we’ve got the same referee we had the previous time against Exeter, Jerome Garces, one of the best referees in the world and both teams will have to adapt to him.

“I think all the games that I’ve seen against Exeter, you get your opportunities and you’ve got to use them. I think we’ve used our opportunities in the last three weeks and I think we’ve converted” added van Graan.

One player who has a point to prove this weekend is Rory Scannell. The former Dolphin star has been left out of Joe Schmidt's Six Nations squad, but Munster's most consistent performer is ready to play his best for Munster and hope that his performances there propel his side to victory and in the future, more Ireland caps.

“We're delighted with the result on Friday over in Kingsholm. It was a tough game. We pulled away in the end but it was definitely a lot tougher than it looked on the scoreboard.

“They're the games the coaches are looking at, the interpros and the big European games. I haven't really thought about the selection a whole lot, it's been a big few weeks for the club.

“You're just concentrating on your own performance and if you do that, and do well over these few games, you can put your hand up but you can't affect what happens after that. You can only hope you do well” admitted Scannell.

So with Munster all focused on the Exeter clash and not Ireland squads or quarter finals, what of Exeter?

“We have done the most important thing, which is get to the last stage of the pool effectively in a knockout game,” Exeter's rob Baxter said this week.

“It is not as simple as that because we have to do more than just win the game. We have to collect at least a four-point gap to get level with Munster, but we have given ourselves a definite something to go over there and play for” he continued.

“We can genuinely talk this week about going and testing ourselves in one of Europe's iconic venues against one of Europe's iconic teams, in as close to a knockout as we could get”

Munster's clash with Exeter (5.30pm) is live on Virgin Media One, Channel 4 and is also on BT Sport. For radio listeners the game is also on RTE Radio One and Limerick's Live95fm.