herald

Friday 20 April 2018

Munster myth is built on taking down the big dogs

Head coach Johann van Graan
Head coach Johann van Graan

Terrific Toulon put on a show against Clermont-Auvergne that was the talk of the town this week, leading into the Champions Cup quarter-final at Thomond Park tomorrow. 

They looked the next best thing to unbeatable, giving Clermont a shellacking in a humiliating 49-point whitewash in the French Top-14 that owed something to the losers’ attitude, but even more to Toulon’s brilliance.

Munster have been here before, lapping up the role of the underdog as another ‘big dog’ of French rugby arrives on their shores.

history

The Southern Province has won 70 of their 75 home matches through their storied history in the European Cup.

In addition, Clermont-Auvergne is the only Top-14 club to win at Thomond Park.

The statistics reveal Johann van Graan’s men made the fewest metres-per-match (324) of any side in the pool stages.

In contrast, Toulon averaged the most (479) and beat the most defenders (155) with Josua Tuisova (23) and Facundo Isa (19) among the top-10 individual players.

The measure of their resources is illustrated by their options in the midfield.

One All Black Malakai Fekitoa will have to get the nod over another, Ma’a Nonu, and in-form France centre Mathieu Bastareaud.

“I’ve heard a lot of things about Irish (rugby) and the supporters there being really behind the team.

“I heard it’s going to be a great atmosphere,” said Fekitoa about Thomond Park.

Of course, he was the man who put a high forearm to the head of Simon Zebo when New Zealand took revenge on Ireland for what happened in Chicago in November 2016.  

“Last time I was in Dublin it was crazy, you know?” he said.

It was a crazy game in which crazy things happened.

Just like Thomond on any given Saturday.

  • Champions  Cup, Munster v Toulon, (Live Sky Sports, Tom KO 3.15)

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