Wednesday 25 April 2018

Lund needs no introduction to power of Munster pack

David Kelly

David Kelly

Magnus Lund doesn't need to be reminded what's coming down the track. Four years ago, this English son of a Norwegian international basketball player experienced the full fervour of Munster's indomitable Heineken Cup spirit.

His Sale side had already dispatched the Irish side in Edgeley Park on the opening weekend of the competition. When they returned to engage at Thomond Park in January, Munster needed a miracle to progress... Sound familiar?

The Sharks were riding high in the English Premiership and were in cocky mood as they knifed their way across the Irish Sea; their players dismissing the potential effect the Limerick citadel may have on the occasion... Sound familiar?

When Ronan O'Gara kicked off at 3-3, 11 minutes into the first-half, Sebastien Chabal received the restart. Then he received Paul O'Connell. Then Donncha O'Callaghan. Then Anthony Foley.

It was as if he were being sucked into the Ballynanty end. Sale lost about 30 yards in the drive. Munster scored a try from the subsequently sliced Charlie Hodgson clearance. In truth, they lost the match in that moment.

So Lund doesn't need to be reminded what's coming. It may be in San Sebastian, not Thomond; against Biarritz, not Sale; with Mick O'Driscoll, not O'Connell; with James Coughlan, not Foley. But it will still be the Heineken Cup. It will still be Munster.

"The whole back row is a strong point for Munster," says the England international. "And for us to try to do anything, that will be the key to the whole game. We'll have to be right on our game against all three of them. Bloody hell we'll have our work cut out but we'll get the best out of it."

He's smiling now because you mention that Alan Quinlan will also be playing -- "he's obviously a class player". The ageless Quinlan had injured himself in the Manchester tie that year and only returned for a cameo appearance in the final.


"It's strange they way things work out. Munster showed their big pedigree against us and we can't take anything for granted. They can raise their game once the big occasion comes around."

Lund planted a seed within the Biarritz cheque-wielders in that Thomond Park defeat in 2006. Internationally, he would forge a reputation for himself, too, winning 10 caps. Since then, management changes, a clutch of injuries and the fatwa against certain overseas players not called Wilkinson have militated against him adding to his caps total.

"I think internationally I'm out of sight at the moment. I don't know what might happen in the future, maybe this Heineken Cup run might open their minds. But it doesn't really matter to me, I'm enjoying my time here and I'm hoping we can get into the final."

At 6'7", it's no surprise that he himself dabbled with a few hoop dreams in his youth -- as did brother Eric, another tall, Anglo-Norwegian rugby pro on the verge of pitching up in the south of France to join his brother.

Blessed with foolproof hands, Lund's qualities are easily transferable to the French game where keeping the ball alive is paramount. Not feeling restricted to either blind or openside also infused him with enthusiasm for the style of play in the country.

"Obviously it's something that there's more focus on over here, trying to keep the ball alive," he says. "French flair or whatever you call it. You find a lot of guys who have played different sports over here so that obviously helps.

"Over here, the back row is really about a combination with all three players and the number on your back doesn't matter in the slightest. I like to run around and get involved in the play so if that's your seven then that's what I am!"

Although annoyed at his side's inconsistency this term, Lund is loving every minute of his stay in this heavenly part of the world.

And the lingo is coming on too. "I don't think we'll take Munster ... oh I'm so used to speaking French, what's the phrase? Oh yeah, lightly. We don't be taking them lightly."

History taught him that much.

Irish Independent

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