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Dowling: We Won’t Underestimate Saracens

Dowling: We Won’t Underestimate Saracens

Saracens went down to London Wasps last Sunday and are now eighth in the Guinness Premiership, but Munster will afford them plenty of respect when the sides clash in Coventry on Sunday.

Munster coach Declan Kidney a good man for statistics. His side are heavily favoured to beat Saracens this weekend and progress to their fourth Heineken Cup final but the Corkman warned that the province have never beaten an English team in the semi-finals or final of the tournament before.

In all, Munster have travelled to England 12 times in the Heineken Cup, winning six matches and losing the other six.

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Their sixth win was in this season’s quarter-finals when they beat Gloucester 16-3 at Kingsholm three weeks ago.

Winger Ian Dowling, a try scorer against Gloucester, has been impressed with what he has seen of Saracens on video analysis.

“We saw the tries they conceded against Wasps last weekend. They were all tries from their own mistakes, Wasps never threatened them. The tries Saracens scored their deserved them. They fought hard for their tries.

“They’re a dogged team, you can’t give them a sniff of it. The Ospreys took their foot off the pedal (in the quarter-final), some people might say, but Sarries showed more passion and deserved the result.

“Some people are calling them underdogs but I don’t think they can be underestimated.”

Dowling is determined to see Munster through to their second Heineken Cup decider in three years, particularly with it being European legend and former captain Anthony Foley’s last season with the men in red.

“Players like John Kelly and Anthony Foley, they’re legends of Munster rugby. John has already finished up, Anthony is due to finish up this season.

“It would be a fitting tribute to them if we could pull this one out of the bag. Send Anthony off with a second Heineken Cup medal.”

Prop Marcus Horan is eager to make his mark against Sarries after missing the victory over Gloucester due to a back spasm.

“Saracens are pretty formidable, we’ve watched videos of them. You always guage the opposition off teams that we’ve played and they’ve played in the last few weeks.

“Obviously the game against Gloucester and the games against Wasps this season. They’re very strong, especially in the tighthead.

“The scrum, it’s something people always target for a Munster game. We’ll be targeting it ourselves, in the sense that if we can on top there we can hurt them a lot. They’ve relied on their strong scrum throughout the season.

“I think if we can disrupt them there it could make a huge difference to the game.”

Saracens have lost in recent weeks in the Guinness Premiership to Leicester, Gloucester and Wasps, Horan’s forward colleague Donncha O’Callaghan reckons Sarries’ inconsistent form should be discounted particularly as Sunday’s game is an out-and-out play-off game.

“You don’t look at their recent form, you look at some of the sides they beaten to know how good they are. They hammered Biarritz in London and were desperately unlucky not to win out there. Lost by a point with a late penalty,” said the influential second row.

“Then look what they did to the Ospreys in the quarter-final. In many way their recent form mirrors ours. Good against the Ospreys, not so good in their recent ;eague games.

“We were good against Gloucester not so hot since then. I suppose on recent ;eague form neither of us should be in the Heineken semi-final.”

And his view on the Alan Gaffney factor?

“In relation to Alan, I would have huge respect for him. We all would,” O’Callaghan admitted.

“He is a top class coach and, as such, having spent three years with us he is best positioned to know exactly what our strengths and weaknesses are.

“Of course things have changed since he was here but it makes this game even trickier with Saracens having him there.”