Sunday 25 February 2018

Penney not fazed by Clermont task

Rob Penney is eyeing an upset when his Munster side face Clermont Auvergne
Rob Penney is eyeing an upset when his Munster side face Clermont Auvergne

Former European champions Munster will find themselves in an unfamiliar position of being clear underdogs when they tackle Heineken Cup semi-final opponents Clermont Auvergne on Saturday.

Munster, Heineken Cup winners in 2006 and 2008, head to Montpellier for a showdown on neutral territory with this season's tournament favourites. The Irish heavyweights showed their class with a superb quarter-final win at Harlequins earlier this month, but Clermont promise to be another step up.

"We are going to go over there and give it a good crack. A game of rugby is such a dynamic one that on any given day an underdog can pull it off," Munster boss Rob Penney said. "It's 15 versus 15, we have a great referee in Nigel Owens and we just have to make sure we prepare well and perform."

He added: "There is no doubt Clermont are roaring hot favourites and we are underdogs. You can either thrive under that tag or wilt away. The best teams should be in the Heineken Cup at this stage, and Clermont are certainly in that bracket. But we still have a lot of expectation from the Munster public and supporters."

Clermont have not lost a game in this season's competition, winning all six pool matches before sending quarter-final opponents Montpellier packing.

But Clermont's Wales international full-back Lee Byrne expects a fearsome challenge from Munster, with the winners facing Saracens or Toulon - they meet at Twickenham on Sunday - in next month's Dublin final.

"I've played them (Munster) a lot over the years, and they know how to win Heineken Cup matches," Byrne said.

"We are under no illusions about what they're going to bring, and they have a great knack of pulling it out of the bag when it really matters. Hopefully, we can stop that."

Byrne has missed just one Heineken game since he joined Clermont from the Ospreys in 2011, and he is the first to salute an outstanding pack for building victory platforms on a regular basis.

"Standing back and watching our forwards having a rumble is quite intimidating," he added. "I just let them carry on and applaud it at the back. It's the best pack I've ever played behind, and it's a credit to them because they work really hard. I just hope we get our rewards at the end of the season."

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