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Paul O'Connell

Paul O'Connell

Paul O'Connell

How Munster could regret their slow and unflattering treatment of Rob Penney in renewing his contract was he to oversee a day of days in the Heineken Cup.

Munster have long been held up as the single most important club in building the Heineken Cup up to what it is. The romance of their many nearly days all contributed to the unbridled passion that greeted their breakthrough in 2006.

ILL-FATED

It was in those early years that Munster began their ill-fated invasions into French territory, losing out to Castres (19-12) in 1995, Toulouse (60-19) in 1996, Bourgoin (21-6) in 1997, Perpignan (41-24) in 1998 and to Colomiers (23-9) in the quarter-final of the same season.

The culture change all started at Colomiers in December 1999, when centre Jason Holland's two tries and one each from Keith Wood and Marcus Horan started a habit Munster have never wanted to break.

For all the examinations they have faced, Bernard Laporte's Toulon bring the greatest in a generation simply on the basis of the global names they will roll out onto Marseille's Stade Velodrome on Sunday.

"It will be a very physical battle. The intensity will be high. Things will happen quickly," warned Penney.

"It will be the equivalent of Test match rugby, higher in some cases, because of the calibre of people involved, so that's the challenge. It's a great challenge for us.

"But the type of intensity that is required here is ice-cold mental focus with a fire in the belly and fire in the heart, making sure that your mind is ruling your body."

As ever, Paul O'Connell will lead the Red Army into Marseille.

The feverish support for the province and Munster's long, defined ability to put out fires all over the place in order to strike out for glory makes them a danger to Toulon. Their natural inclination to 'stand up and fight' usually serves them well when their backs are against the wall and the hairs raised on their necks. Where Leinster looked to outsmart Toulon, Munster will move to take them head-on.

They will have to do what Leinster couldn't. They will have to make chances – there will not be many of them – and they will have to take them mercilessly.

INTENSITY

"I said before we played Leinster we had a lot of guys who hadn't played a lot of rugby, certainly at that high intensity going into that game. We were off the mark a little bit because they had a lot of guys coming out of the international environment.

"There is certainly no reason why we can use that excuse this week," said Penney.

Munster have had Leinster in the Aviva Stadium and Toulouse at Thomond Park to put in place the right mental and physical edge to cope with what Toulon will bring.


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