London Wasps advanced to their first Heineken Cup final with a thrilling 37-32 win over Munster at a packed Lansdowne Road.
Wasps advanced to their first Heineken Cup final with a thrilling 37-32 win over Munster at Lansdowne Road. Wasps, coached by former Ireland chief Warren Gatland, will nowface defending champions Toulouse in the final at Twickenham on May 23. The result added to Munster's European Cup misery - this was theirfifth successive European Cup semi-final but they have yet to win thetrophy. English champions Wasps had to overcome a 10-point deficit midwaythrough the second half but rallied and won a dramatic match when Samoahooker Tervor Leota went over in the closing stages for their fifth try. Wasps and England captain Lawrence Dallaglio said: "This gamehad courage, passion, skill, everything... It was a great game of rugby." Meanwhile New Zealander Gatland said: "I can't take thesmile off my face. "I thought the team showed great character. Not many teamscome back from a 10-point deficit against Munster. "I was very concerned at 32-22 behind. But this group ofplayers just has such a great work ethic and we didn't want to leave this behindus." Munster's Australian coach Alan Gaffney said losing Irelandfly-half Ronan O'Gara on the half-hour mark was an "enormous loss to us". He added: "Ronan's kicking game might have closed the gamedown for us. Wasps are a very good side but we missed too many first-up tacklesand allowed them to gain momentum." But Munster skipper and former Wallaby back-row Jim Williams said:"We've only got ourselves to blame. We talked about discipline and fieldposition before the game but we let them (Wasps) back into it." An action-packed first-half half ended with Wasps two points up at17-15 but a man down after England flanker Joe Worsley was yellow cardedfor killing the ball in the 34th minute. O'Gara gave Munster the lead in the opening minute with the firstof three penalties. Wasps responded three minutes later when Richard Birkett won alineout, the ball was worked across field and England wing Josh Lewsey crossed andfly-half Alex King converted. King and O'Gara added to the penalty tally before O'Gara departed.
Then came Worsley's sin-binning and O'Gara's replacement, JasonHolland, landed the resulting penalty to leave Munster 12-10 up. However, minutes later, Holland went from hero to villain when his clearance kick was charged down by former Wales scrum-half Rob Howley. The number nine, who almost got over the line himself, instead fedflanker Paul Volley for an opportunist try. But Holland's second penalty on the stroke of half-time reducedthe gap to 17-15 in Wasps' favour. Wasps though caught Munster cold at the start of the second halfwith a well-worked try. Left-wing Tom Voyce scythed his way crossfield through the Munsterdefence before full-back Mark van Gisbergen dived over in the right corner. Williams went to the video referee who confirmed the score andalthough King missed the touchline conversion, Wasps seemingly had breathingspace at 22-15. Worsley returned with his side in the lead before Holland's thirdpenalty reduced the gap to 22-18. Wasps then had a second-player sin-binned when, in the 51stminute, centre Fraser Waters was ordered off. And Munster then turned the game on its head with two tries in asmany minutes. In the 59th minute, following flanker Stephen Keogh's break, No.8Anthony Foley went over for a try. Holland landed a superb touchline conversion and Munster were25-22 ahead. The crowd went even more noisy when, following Holland's superbgrubber kick, Munster won the ball and skipper Williams was driven over. Holland added the extras to put Munster 10 points in front at32-22 with 20 minutes left. But Wasps refused to yield and King's penalty in the 67th minuteclosed the gap. And Wasps' recovery continued when, with Munster down to 13 menfollowing the sin-binnings of Donncha O'Callaghan and former Wasp RobHenderson, Voyce crossed for a try. King's conversion tied the game at 32-32 with barely six minutesremaining before Leota powered over to give Wasps the edge.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt reveals the team to play France and talks about the tightest selection calls, while hooker Rory Best says his Ulster colleague Iain Henderson will be ready to make a big impact off the bench.
Five Irish sporting legends - Sonia O'Sullivan, Tony McCoy, Barry McGuigan, Henry Shefflin and Niall Quinn - visited Ireland camp on Wednesday evening for a memorable get-together with the squad. Ireland team manager Michael Kearney fills us in.
Speaking ahead of Ireland's crunch clash with France, scrum half Eoin Reddan said: "Everyone trained very hard today. Obviously we've a huge game at the weekend. We're all in no doubt about how much it means to people back home, and how much it means to us here."
Ireland prop Mike Ross talks about the preparations for Sunday's showdown with France. He also noted there is very little between the two teams at present, mentioning Ireland's 2014 and 2015 wins but also the fact that France have 'a much better World Cup record than we do.'
Looking forward to Ireland's Pool D decider with France next Sunday, hooker Sean Cronin said: "There's a great buzz around the squad. These big games are what you look forward to when it comes to World Cup time."
The gym isn't just about lifting weights, and different players require different loads depending on the training programmes. Strength and conditioning coach John Kiely and Iain Henderson talk us through today's session at Celtic Manor.
Iain Henderson feels this is 'more than likely the best Ireland team ever to compete in a World Cup'. "If we get all our stuff right, our set piece, and get some good counter attack, I don't see any reason why we can't turn the French over," he said, speaking ahead of Sunday's Pool D decider.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt announces the team to play Italy in the Rugby World Cup on Sunday and gives an update on the fitness of Jared Payne and Rob Kearney. Jonathan Sexton also talks about playing with a new centre pairing.
Ireland team manager Michael Kearney says Robbie Henshaw has trained fully this week and is available for selection for the Italy game. Meanwhile, the injuries sustained by Rob Kearney (glute strain) and Jared Payne (bruised foot) are being monitored.
Plyometrics, movement speed work, jump work and some heavy loaded lifting - all in a day's work for the Ireland squad as they hit the gym at Surrey Sports Park today. Strength and conditioning coach Jason Cowman and Ireland centre Darren Cave talk us through the session.