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O’Connell: Top Performance Needed Against Perpignan

O’Connell: Top Performance Needed Against Perpignan

Munster captain Paul O’Connell has admitted that his side’s current form ahead of their return to Heineken Cup action against Perpignan on Friday is ‘a concern’.

The 2006 and 2008 European Champions face French giants Perpignan at Thomond Park on Friday on the back of just five victories from 10 Heineken Cup and Magners League fixtures so far this season.

And having lost to Northampton Saints in their opening Pool 1 encounter, before being given a scare by Benetton Treviso a week later, skipper Paul O’Connell makes no attempt to hide the fact that he wishes his team was in better shape.

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“Our form is probably a bit of a concern,” said O’Connell, who missed last Saturday’s defeat to the Ospreys after suffering a calf strain in the lead up to the game.

“We’d rather be playing great rugby, rather be flying along in the Magners League. I suppose we’ve struggled a little bit. We’ve had injuries.

“I suppose that was our big strength last year in that it didn’t matter who pulled on the jersey – we performed. And that’s something we need to look at and something we need to get right.”

O’Connell and company know that victory in Friday night’s encounter is crucial if the former tournament winners are to make it through to the quarter-finals, particularly as they travel to France a week later to a venue where Perpignan have not been beaten in Europe since 2004.

Perpignan are in fine form too, sitting second in the Top 14 having won the French Championship crown earlier this year.

But whatever the quality of opposition or the intense pressure of the competition, O’Connell insists that the key as far as his side are concerned is ensuring their own house is in order.

That was the case in their last Magners League home game – a match that was accompanied by plenty of pressure but that ended in a comprehensive 24-10 win over Ulster for the Red Army.

Unsurprisingly, O’Connell is looking for more of the same this weekend, saying: “The main thing we always do is try and focus on ourselves. When you get too bogged down and too focused on other teams you end up not playing.

“In that Ulster week it was all about our performance and that’s why we produced the game we did on the day.

“The Ulster game for us was a great game to get going with back home. We were flying high that day.

“We were just concerned about ourselves and it’ll be the same this weekend.

“The main priority will be our own play and how we perform and the intensity we play at. Sure we’ll look at their strengths. And address those strengths. But we have to focus on ourselves first and foremost.”