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Munster vulnerable in Castres

MUNSTER are where they want to be - in pole position beside The Scarlets - as they bid to make the knockout phase for the 13th time in 14 seasons.

The drama of Northampton must have sent a tremor the whole way down O'Connell Street in Limerick.

In review, the two-time champions played their get-out-of-jail card in the form of one exquisite lash of Ronan O'Gara's boot in the citadel last Saturday. There is life in these old dogs yet.

Logic suggests there is not the quality of player coming through their system to extend Munster's long love affair with this competition. The exceptions are scrum-half Conor Murray and the traditional blood-and-guts thunder of Peter O'Mahony.

But, this is not a movement based on the percentages. The almost tangible tentacles of history, passion, belligerence and intelligence make Munster the great enigma, one out of which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Tony McGahan's men were beaten in the scrum, neutralised at the lineout and skinned in open play by The Saints. The sheer stubbornness of Paul O'Connell, O'Gara and Doug Howlett kept them alive.

Next, the annual pilgrimage to the south of France will take Munster to Toulouse to play Castres, a high-riding third in the French Championship and unlucky not to have come away with a losing bonus point from The Scarlets in Round One.

Castres Olympique v Munster, Stade Ernest Wallon, Tomorrow (KO 3.40) Live Sky Sports 1 -

Verdict: Castres