Wednesday 22 January 2020

Prendergast says Reds still a force as Racing go full strength for Saracens

Racing 92 coach Mike Prendergast. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Racing 92 coach Mike Prendergast. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Racing 92 coach Mike Prendergast insists Munster remain a European force despite their likely exit at the pool stages this season.

The Limerick native is attack coach at the Parisian club and he believes his side had to dig deep to inflict a damaging 39-22 defeat on Johann van Graan's men on Sunday.

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That win means the French side top Pool 4 and Munster now need them to beat Saracens next weekend, while also relying on two of Gloucester, Glasgow and Northampton losing to Toulouse, La Rochelle and Lyon. If that doesn't come to pass, it means Munster will not play in the European knockout stages for the first time since 2016.

But Prendergast believes they are still capable of going toe to toe with the big boys.

"I know there was a bit of pressure over the last couple of weeks because they lost to Leinster and Ulster, Leinster narrowly, a lot of players out through player management, the Irish player management resting players, and they had a couple of injuries and stuff," he said.

"I was saying to the players during the week, 'Don't focus too much on that, focus on their last performance against Saracens' in which they were very impressive again to 60-65 minutes.

"It was not too unlike Sunday, the game was there to potentially be won and I felt they should have beaten Saracens, so you are looking at 30 minutes of rugby that can change it for you.

Ruthless

"Unfortunately, at this level it's ruthless enough and that's what it came down to. They're not that far away. They're a very good side.

"I have only huge admiration for the performance Munster put out there (on Sunday). It took us a long time to break Munster down. I felt there was a defence set there that we won with about 20 minutes to go and it gave us a lot of momentum.

"We started unloading the bench then and it took a long time; defensively, I felt they were very strong, there weren't many opportunities barring the last… and Teddy Thomas finishes an incredibly well-taken try. And if he didn't finish that at the time things could have been different.

"So, the scoreline probably didn't reflect 65 minutes or so of the game but we showed cool heads and we were quite clinical in the last 15 minutes. And to get that bonus point was literally a bonus at the end."

Racing, Prendergast says, will go locked and loaded to Allianz Park as they look to go into the quarter-finals with the highest possible seeding.

"Absolutely. That's one thing I noticed coming into Racing this year, there is that hunger for the Champions Cup which is great. The boys have been close before, and they really want to go to the next level."

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