Wednesday 21 February 2018

Reds ready to roar in France

Murray leads rallying cry to write new chapter in glorious Euro history


It is a path well worn and Munster hope that this latest expedition to France, with the odds stacked against them, will provide another chapter in the fascinating story of the Reds and the Heineken Cup.

Standing in their way of a fifth Heineken Cup final appearance is a Clermont Auvergne side laden with international talent but which has never got past this stage of the competition.

Irish teams have made it to eight of the 17 Heineken Cup finals, but if there is to be a representative when the decider is held next month in Dublin, then Munster will need to produce something as heroic as they have ever done in the competition.

The failure of any Irish side to make the 2003 Heineken Cup final at Lansdowne Road -- Munster and Leinster lost in the semi-finals -- resulted in a crowd of just 28,600 turning up to watch Toulouse beat Perpignan.

That was the smallest crowd at a Heineken Cup final since Toulouse beat Cardiff in the inaugural decider in 1996, when 21,800 were in the Arms Park.

Munster have been allocated 5,000 tickets for tomorrow's semi-final but, as they showed in the quarter-final against Harlequins, the Reds faithful will probably manage to get their hands on many more.

Clermont Auvergne -- whose supporters queued overnight for tickets -- hope to have 20,000 in the ground, clad in their traditional yellow and blue.

The 32,900-capacity Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, a four-hour journey down the Massif Central from Clermont Ferrand, will provide the stage for the latest marquee fixture for Munster.

Formerly a 16,000-seater stadium, it was rebuilt to stage six matches in the 1998 soccer World Cup and also hosted pool games in the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Nine of the Munster side who started the 2008 Heineken Cup final against Toulouse are no longer with the club as the Reds build for the future.

And one of that new generation, scrum-half Conor Murray, says it is time for the current squad to build their own legacy.

"We all grew up witnessing the great victories in Europe, but now we have the chance to do it ourselves," said the Limerick man, who burst on the scene two years ago. "It's an honour to be given that opportunity and we must do everything we can to take it."

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