Click here for photos of the Munster squad in training at the Millennium Stadium ahead of Saturday’s Heineken Cup final.
Pictured above: Munster lock Paul O’Connell, so often the driving force behind the province in Europe this season, trains at the Millennium Stadium.
O’Connell has no doubt that Munster will give it everything they have got in their third Heineken Cup final since 2000. The 6ft 6in forward said: “You can’t miss the importance of the game at home, but you have to use all of that correctly in your preparations and I don’t get annoyed when people ask about any emotional scars from our previous finals in 2000 and 2002.
“There are a few lads involved on Saturday who may not have another opportunity to win a Heineken Cup and those players are as focused as you would possibly want.
“We are fortunate at Munster to have a ridiculously motivated bunch of players and one one can every say that we haven’t given everything in every match and, just like the semi-final, we will give it everything we’ve got against Biarritz.”
Munster number eight and captain Anthony Foley, who has played in all bar one of the province’s 76 Heineken Cup fixtures in the competition’s 11-year history, walks out for Friday’s session at the Millennium Stadium.
An overview of the Munster players training on the Millennium Stadium pitch. The decision on whether the roof at the venue will be closed or not will be taken on Saturday morning, and is weather dependent. ERC chief executive Derek McGrath will consult with the teams’ coaches and Millennium Stadium chief executive Paul Sergeant on the matter.
Declan Kidney and Anthony Foley talk tactics. Foley, 32, is keen to wash away the sour taste left by Munster’s final defeats by Northampton (2000) and Leicester (2002). The former St. Munchin’s pupil said: “It’s no fun waking up the next day after you’ve lost a final. We’ve experienced that and it’s a big motivational factor for us this time around. The disappointments we’ve felt in the past will spur us on against Biarritz. We’ve often talked about how the fear of losing has driven us on at Thomond Park.
“The fear of waking up after a European Cup final with another silver medal is a big driving force for this side.”
The Munster players are put through their paces at the Millennium Stadium.
Hoping to use his side’s experience of the Cardiff venue (Munster lost there to Leicester in 2002 but returned in January 2003 to beat Neath for the Celtic League title), Anthony Foley admitted: “The first time we played at the Millennium Stadium was against Leicester. It was claustrophobic and the noise levels were not something we had come across before.
“It’s nice to have that experience under our belts as well because it cane be a rude awakening if you’re not prepared for it.”
Prop Marcus Horan throws a pass out at the Millennium Stadium. The Irish international was rated doubtful for the final due to a calf muscle injury but he came through Thursday’s closed doors session in Limerick and has ben named at loosehead in the Munster side for Saturday’s game. Argentinian-born but capped by Italy, Federico Pucciariello has been named on the bench as prop cover.
Paul O’Connell has lined out for Munster against French opposition on two occasions this season – scoring a handsome three tries in the process. Hopefully the Limerick man can continue his good form against Biarritz. The 26-year-old netted tries against Castres Olympique (2) in January and Perpignan in last month’s quarter-final.
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**