Stand up and fight: Exeter Chiefs have it all to play for in Thomond Park
MUNSTER have never done it easy. This weekend, once more, they go into a final Pool game in the Champions Cup with everything on the line.
The Exeter Chiefs stand in the way of Munster making the knockout stages of the competition for the 18th time when they meet at a sold-out Thomond Park on Saturday at 5.30pm.
If Exeter manage to upset the odds in Saturday’s shoot-out and deprive Munster of a losing bonus point, they will qualify on the basis of the head-to-head matches between the clubs.
A win for Munster will secure them a place in the knockout stage, but might not be enough to earn a home quarter-final. That place could be secured by Edinburgh on Friday night, should they defeat Montpelier in Murrayfield.
Ahead of the game, Munster head coach Johann van Graan thinks that Exeter will prove to be a massive challenge.
“I believe they will come over the same as any other top team does all around the world, they'll back themselves to come away with a win.
“They'll stick to what they do well. Very good kicking game at nine and 10, fantastic centres in terms of their work rate and two wings that cause us havoc, add that to Jack Nowell at 15 too.
“I'm under no illusions to what awaits us on Saturday afternoon. I think the same as the previous time we went down to Sandy Park, I think it will be a Titanic battle, it might come down to the last play of the game like it did the previous time,” concluded the former Blue Bulls coach.
Rob Baxter, director of rugby at Exeter has chosen his ‘familiar’ words wisely ahead of the game.
“It is going to be a fantastic test for us, and great to see which players want to stand up and fight. The biggest thing for us is to get emotionally recharged.
“Looking at Munster (at Gloucester) on Friday, they went there absolutely bubbling with emotion, to get in the faces of Gloucester, particularly in the forwards.
“It was almost evident they had a real game-plan to go after certain people within the Gloucester team. That is the thing we have got to face first.
“We have to decide that we are going to go there and stand up and not back down, physically or emotionally. And that will give us our best chance.”
Munster are sweating on the fitness of their leader and ‘emotional energy’ machine Peter O'Mahony. The captain popped a rib against Gloucester and has been rated 50/50 for the tie.
“We will have to trust our depth if Peter is out. We have the emotion, but we will need more than emotion to beat a quality team like Exeter,” added van Graan