Munster coach Tony McGahan has kept faith in the personnel that carved out a hard-fought 24-23 win over Perpignan last Friday, naming an unchanged team or the return clash with Perpignan at the Stade Aime Giral on Sunday (kick-off 4pm local time/3pm Irish time).
In deciding on his selection, Munster coach Tony McGahan obviously was not one bit influenced by Perpignan flanker Yohan Vivalda’s assertion that the Munster side he played and scored a try against last weekend, was more like an academy side.
“I didn’t find Munster, who make up half the Irish team, very impressive,” Vivalda told Midi Olympique.
“They weren’t really exceptional. They didn’t try to play the game. At times I had the impression I was playing against an academy team.”
“The guy’s entitled to his opinion,” was McGahan’s response to Vivalda’s assertions and it is certain Munster will not concern themselves with factors outside their control as they approach this game, as veteran flanker Alan Quinlan explains.
“Nothing changes from last week really. We’ll concentrate on ourselves, on what we have to do and our own performance,” admitted Quinlan.
“It may sound cliched but that’s the way it has to be. We saw them at first hand last weekend. They’re a very good side.
“But that didn’t come as a surprise to us. We knew that when the pools were announced. We knew these back-to-backs would be crucial and our aim was to be travelling out there still in control of our own destiny.
“We’ve managed that. We know what we need to know about them, so now for us it’s a question of focusing on us, on our performance.”
A lot was made in the media of Munster’s end game and those close in line-outs that Munster opted for instead of a kick at goal and their preceived failure to snatch a try.
“The decison there was more not to give them back possession,” Quinlan explained.
“We’d just seen what they could do with that (Philip) Burger try. If we’d gone for the penalty, they’d have the restart and anything could happen. Why take the chance?”
With McGahan opting for an unchanged side, Keith Earls and Lifeimi Mafi will resume their centre partnership and Denis Hurley, who went very close to scoring a try in last weekend’s tight tussle, continues on the left wing.
With Jerry Flannery sidelined by an Achilles injury, Denis Fogarty continues at hooker flanked by South African newcomer Wian du Preez and the Heineken Cup’s most-capped player John Hayes.
The experienced Mick O’Driscoll, himself a former Perpignan player, Peter Stringer and Jean de Villiers have to be content with places on the bench.
The Munster squad and management flew out from Shannon Airport on Friday morning.
MUNSTER (v Perpignan): Paul Warwick; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Wian du Preez, Denis Fogarty, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Darragh Hurley, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Peter Stringer, Jean de Villiers.