Jump to main content


Best Braced For Thomond Test

Best Braced For Thomond Test

Thomond Park holds no fears for Neil Best – and the Ireland flanker is adamant his Northampton Saints team-mates can draw strength from their recent experiences there when they return to Munster’s stronghold for Saturday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final duel.

It will be meeting number 3 of the season between the teams after Northampton won the Pool 1 opener 31-27 at Franklin’s Gardens and two-time Heineken Cup champions Munster won the final group match 12-9 in Limerick less than three months ago.

Now the prize is an away semi-final contest against either Biarritz Olympique or the Ospreys early next month with Neil Best and fellow Saint and Irish international Roger Wilson – both former Ulster favourites – well acquainted with the demands of travelling to play a team who have lost just once in their last 42 home Heineken Cup matches.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s game, Best said: “Roger and I have played there numerous times and I know none of our players will be daunted by going there in the quarter-finals.

“That last match gave us a lot of confidence and that is very encouraging as we prepare to go back for a huge game.

“The big thing is that we believe in ourselves wherever we are playing and know we could have won that match at Thomond in January.

“If I remember correctly, the pivotal period was when Dylan (Hartley) charged down a box kick and we had to score from a scrum on their line.

“However, it ended up with them clearing their line and holding on for the win.

“The atmosphere and hype surrounding matches at Thomond – the sea of red supporters and everyone talking about the game – means it is just great to be part of it all and play at the ground.

“Our travelling support is superb but I am not bothered if I am playing in front of one man in a flat cap with his dog or 80,000, though I accept the first 20 minutes on Saturday will be crucial.

“All in all, it is going to be a very difficult encounter but we are also a good team.

“People were saying that our home win against them in Round 1 was one of the best games they had seen in years.

“We played really well in matching their ferocity and intensity and tactically we were very clever and it was certainly a great match to play in and to win.”

The Saints, who beat Leeds Carnegie 14-7 at the weekend, are in second spot in the Guinness Premiership and the first side to qualify for the 2010/11 Heineken Cup after securing the LV= Cup title.

But Best is adamant that the ambitious Saints have the treble of the LV=Cup, Heineken Cup and Premiership crown in their sights.

“The prize is to win all three – and we have only done one third of that – although the LV= Cup final was a tremendous spectacle plus we ensured Heineken Cup qualification as well,” he added.

“But the next day it was back to work as we looked ahead to what we still have to do in the Premiership and, more immediately, in the Heineken Cup.”