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Foley faces acid test as Munster line up Clermont clash

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Anthony Foley

Anthony Foley

Anthony Foley

These are the magical days on which fortress Thomond were built around.

Limerick only fully comes alive when the European Cup is on town. And they don't come any bigger or better than Clermont.

Les Jaunards have carried the French flag in Europe with more colour than any other as Toulouse have let it out of their grip.

Sure, Toulon have won the last two European Cups.

But they have done so with a brand of rugby as unsightly as it is effective. They are no ones' second favourite club and, one senses, that is just the way they like it.

Whereas Clermont? Well, they play the way France should play, don't they? They are at once marvellous and muscular.

Anthony Foley's Munster have not exactly been a paragon of beauty. Nor should they be. They have returned to their roots.

TURNED

The scrum. The maul. The pick. The jam. The tactical nous delivered by half-backs Ian Keatley and Conor Murray.

That was what turned Saracens on their heels there in October.

They also have that blend of youth and experience to their pack where the mungral in their game comes so naturally.

They may not have the dominant Ireland figures of yesteryear, but they do have that same indomitable spirit to fearlessly go to the trenches.

Clermont will not be intimidated. They are one of just four clubs with a winning record over Munster in Europe, winning three games and losing two.

It is at the set-piece, particularly the scrum, where the visitors could reap a handsome reward.

English referee Wayne Barnes does not hold the reputation as a problem-solver. He takes a view and doesn't change it.

If Munster do not lock down their scrum, they could be in for a long day there.

The lineout could also become a source of weakness, given how Paul O'Connell will probably have to counteract the brilliance of Julien Bonnaire in the airborne chess match.

It will be noteworthy to calculate Munster's success there as they have bought back into the maul as a power tool.

A faltering set-piece would also reduce the influence of Murray and spread pressure through the ranks of the backs.

However, the French club has been to Thomond Park twice.

And twice they have lost there.

Verdict: Munster


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