“I love playing in France. I love the physical battles and the atmosphere from the French crowds,” said Connacht captain John Muldoon, as he looks forward to leading the province in European Challenge Cup action this weekend against Brive.
This Saturday will mark John Muldoon’s 59th European appearance since he made his debut in the Challenge Cup away to Narbonne in October 2004, starting in the number 7 shirt just a month before his 22nd birthday.
In his 13 seasons with Connacht, Muldoon has played a total of 11 times in France and has been on the winning side on six occasions, including the famous 16-14 victory over Toulouse in the 2013/14 Heineken Cup.
Commenting on this weekend’s game, and his second trip to the French town of Brive, the Portumna man said: “Brive is a certainly a different challenge for us this week, even when you just look at the sheer size of their players. They have a big ball-carrying number 8 who is over 130 kilos, for example.
“They have a huge pack, a big maul and scrum and big one-out runners, so we expect it to be a lot different to what we’ve been playing against the last few weeks.
“It’s a different test but something we’re really looking forward to. We can really feed off the atmosphere over there. You know you’re doing well because the crowd get on their own team’s back and when they’re even more boisterous when they’re doing well. It’s always a good experience. It is also a huge game for us.”
Muldoon added: “To progress in the competition and more importantly to get a home quarter-final, we know we need to go over there and win. We’ve played Brive already here at the Sportsground and it was tough.
“Having said that, the game came on the back of a huge travel delay in Russia so a lot of the guys that went out to play didn’t have a good week’s prep. Obviously we will have had a more focused week in the build-up to Saturday, albeit after a long day traveling through France as well. But we’re used to that and it’s just the added challenge of playing away from home.
“It’s definitely a mental battle too when you go over there. I think it’s a game that we’ll relish though, particularly in the forwards. Looking at their games, a lot of their opportunities come with penalties off scrums and mauls.
“So if we can nail our jobs especially in maul defence and the scrum, we will be taking away a major weapon of theirs. Typically against French sides when you win the forward contests, it can make life a lot easier for you and it will put us in a good position to win the game.”
Meanwhile, tickets for Connacht v Enisei-STM on Saturday week (kick-off 3pm) are on sale now from tickets.ie, from the Connacht Rugby office at the Sportsground in Galway and from selected Centra & SuperValu stores province-wide.