O'Callaghan: Our season always hinges on one massive match -- this is it
Published 14/01/2011 | 05:00
DONNCHA O'CALLAGHAN gets straight down to it. On Sunday, Munster's Heineken Cup legacy lies with him and the rest of the province's pack.
The magnificent record that has seen them reach the knockout stages for 12 successive seasons will come down to the foothold the Munster forwards gain in just 80 short minutes.
"In big, tight games, it always comes down to one to eight," said O'Callaghan. "It comes down to the physical battle, and that will definitely be the case with Toulon. They pride themselves on their scrum and their set-piece and their mauls.
"I know backs mightn't agree with it, but it's where every rugby match is always decided. One to eight decide it. There is that saying, forwards decide a game and the backs by how much. It's definitely the case here. If you don't front up, your backs are probably never going to get you out of the hole.
"You just know going into this game there is a massive forward emphasis. You are going to be tested, and tested in ways beyond your fitness, too. Our season always comes down to one massive match -- and this Sunday is it."
Toulon's recent domestic form has been mixed as they lost away to Bayonne after Christmas and beat Biarritz at home before last Sunday night's 15-12 defeat at Racing Metro.
They scrummaged impressively in that game, even without former All Black Carl Hayman, who was named in the extended Toulon squad for Sunday.
And while the scrum has been an area of concern for Munster, coach Tony McGahan will have noticed the 15 penalties Philippe Saint-Andre's men conceded.
Ronan O'Gara would be expected to punish a similar level of indiscipline, something that also hampered Toulon in their loss to Bayonne, a game in which second-row Jocelina Suta was sent off for kneeing an opponent.
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal stated recently that the Top 14 title remained the club's main priority and they lie sixth in the table, three points off the play-off positions.
But the chance of scalping Munster in the Heineken Cup will be too big to resist for a club that were in the second tier of French rugby as recently as 2008.
There is much for Munster to be positive about. Their Magners League form has been solid and, historically, they have produced some of their best displays when their backs were to the wall, while the availability of Paul O'Connell is, according to O'Callaghan, "massive".
"Sports psychologists will talk about a championship moment, when it comes down to one big play," O'Callaghan added.
"More so than skill or anything else, it comes down to want, and we've definitely been there at times with our pack, and known that this is a point in the game when you can break their spirit.
"Sometimes it doesn't matter how you win, it's about getting the result and into the next round. That's Sunday for us. There is no Monday morning: it's all about Sunday afternoon."