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Heineken Cup Preview: Montauban v Munster

Heineken Cup Preview: Montauban v Munster

Munster will be close to full strength for Saturday’s final Heineken Cup pool game against Montauban as they look to guarantee themselves a home draw at the quarter-final stage. The reigning champions will be all out to gain their second successive bonus point win.

HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 1: Sunday, January 25

MONTAUBAN v MUNSTER, Stade de Saipac, 1pm Irish time/2pm local time

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* Match, which was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, was postponed until Sunday due to high winds

Team News: Picking his team for Sunday’s Pool 1 meeting with Montauban, Munster coach Tony McGahan has retained the side that secured the province’s Heineken Cup quarter-final qualification last weekend.

McGahan told a midweek press conference that he would be picking his ‘strongest side’ and so it proved as he kept faith with the players who started last weekend’s impressive bonus point win over Sale Sharks, which guaranteed the champions’ place in the quarter-finals.

Another bonus point win against Montauban, who were narrow 19-17 losers in Limerick in October, would see McGahan’s men gain a home draw for the tournament’s last-eight, while a win (without four tries) and other pool results going their way would still be enough for a home fixture.

The team selection sees Paul Warwick retain his place at full-back, with Keith Earls linking again with Lifeimi Mafi in midfield.

The pack is unchanged with versatile forward Donnacha Ryan, who was called up to the Ireland RBS 6 Nations squad this week, again having to settle for a place on the bench.

McGahan said: “A home quarter would be fantastic. That’s an outcome at the end of the 80 minutes, but we have to navigate through that 80 minutes first.

“It’s going to be extremely tough because Montauban are an extremely good side at home. Their results have been excellent so far this year.

“They had a good win against Sale there in the Heineken Cup. They’ll be sticky and they certainly have our number after losing here. Maybe (they’ll think) the result could have gone their way.”

He added: “This is a Heineken Cup game and we need to make sure that we finish well. That has always been our intention to finish as high up as we can.

“Every opportunity out there to get a result, we need to take it and there’s an opportunity to play well and we’ll take that opportunity.

“The players have come back into training this week and they’re very motivated to finish off this campaign very well, because as we know the internationals will depart for the Six Nations.

“We’ll split up soon, so it’s important that we maintain and finish on a real high. It’s about maintaining focus this week.”

MONTAUBAN: Julien Laharrague; Adrien Figueiredo, Jean Philippe Viard, Shannon Paku, Vilimoni Delasau; Regis Lespinas, Julien Audy; Bogdan Balan, Brice Mach, Nick Adams, Matthias Rolland (capt), Scott Murray, Yannick Caballero, Ibrahim Diarra, Matthew Clarkin.

Replacements: Goderzi Shvelidze, Silviu Florea, Rowan Frost, Karim Ghezal, Miguel Avramovic, Fabien Fortassin, Petre Mitu.

MUNSTER: Paul Warwick; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.

Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Federico Pucciariello, Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Peter Stringer, Barry Murphy, Denis Hurley.

Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Touch Judges: Martin Fox, to be confirmed (both England)
Television Match Official: Jean-Pierre Pellaprat (France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Mountauban to win: 7/2; Draw: 25/1; Munster to win: 1/6

Pre-Match Quotes: Marcus Horan (Munster) – “I suppose if we were being very honest, we probably didn’t show them (Montauban) the respect that they deserved (in October). I think we played well in patches and the performance as a whole wasn’t up to standard.

“But having said that they’re a good side and many people probably underestimated it, even ourselves.

“I think that they would be a very similar team to ourselves in that they play with great passion and a huge amount of pride, and I think this weekend will be no different, especially because they are at home.

“They have the European champions coming to town and they will try to get a scalp of the season for them. They’re bottom of the table and will want to get something out of it.

“I suppose there would be no better scalp for them. They beat Sale down there and only lost to Clermont by a few points.

“It’s definitely a tough place to go, they’re very strong in certain areas and I’m sure there passion and pride will drive them on.

“I think we have our own demons to deal with and I suppose one of them is the fact that we want to get a bit of consistency and get two good performances running together.

“On top of that as well, I think we owe it to supporters to try to fight for a home quarter-final, especially in today’s climate. People are having to dig deep and they have dug deep over the last 10 or 11 years now.

“It’s one thing that is always on players’ minds – if we can help in any way by making people walk to the stadium rather than fly, it will make a huge difference to people.

“That’s definitely a driving force for us and there’s definitely no complacency amongst the players as regards the task ahead of us (on Sunday) and what’s at stake.”

Heineken Cup Top Scorers – Current Season: Montauban: Tries: Sylvain Jonnet, Antoine Battut, Vilimoni Delasau, Johan Dalla Riva 1 each; Points: Petre Mitu 32; Munster: Tries: David Wallace 3; Points: Ronan O’Gara 51

Current Form – Montauban – (French Championship): Won 37-19 at home to Mont-de-Marsan; Lost 22-20 away to Bayonne; Won 18-14 at home to Bourgoin; Lost 32-10 away to Montpellier; Lost 41-10 at home to Toulouse; Won 24-23 at home to Castres Olympique; Lost 34-16 away to Stade Francais; (Heineken Cup): Lost 19-17 away to Munster; Lost 24-19 at home to Clermont Auvergne; (French Championship): Won 30-25 at Clermont Auvergne; Won 42-20 at home to Toulon; Drew 20-20 away to Dax; Lost 33-28 away to Brive; Lost 9-6 at home to Perpignan; (Heineken Cup): Lost 36-6 away to Sale Sharks; Won 16-12 at home to Sale Sharks; (French Championship): Won 19-12 at home to Biarritz Olympique; Lost 16-13 away to Mont-de-Marsan; Won 15-13 at home to Bayonne; (Heineken Cup): Lost 43-10 away to Clermont Auvergne

Munster – (Magners League): Won 20-15 away to Edinburgh; Won 50-6 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 28-20 at home to the Cardiff Blues; Won 18-0 away to Leinster; Won 25-17 at home to Glasgow Warriors; (Heineken Cup): Won 19-17 at home to Montauban; Won 24-16 away to Sale Sharks; (Magners League): Lost 22-6 away to Ulster; (Friendly): Lost 18-16 at home to New Zealand; (Magners League): Won 18-16 away to the Scarlets; (Heineken Cup): Lost 25-19 away to Clermont Auvergne; Won 23-13 at home to Clermont Auvergne; (Magners League): Lost 12-6 away to Connacht; Lost 37-11 at home to Ulster; Won 25-21 away to Ospreys; (Heineken Cup): Won 37-14 at home to Sale Sharks

Previous European Meetings: 1

Friday, October 10, 2008 – Pool 1 – Munster 19 Montauban 17, Thomond Park Stadium

Heineken Cup Records:

Montauban –
2008/09: First season in Heineken Cup

Munster –
2007/08: Champions
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Champions
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Reached the semi-finals
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2001/02: Runners-up
2000/01: Reached the semi-finals
1999/00: Runners-up
1998/99: Reached the quarter-finals
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool D
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool D
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool D

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Munster to win by more than 14 points (with four tries or more)