Tuesday 21 November 2017

Toulouse fighting to save their disappointing season

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Their name still resonates but the images of Toulouse winning trophies are taking on more sepia by the year.

On Saturday, the most successful club in European history arrive in Limerick and nobody is fooled any more. For all that Munster will play up the calibre of their opposition in the build-up, the draw has been kind.

Since they claimed the Heineken Cup in 2010, Toulouse have been in a slow, but steady decline. This is just their third quarter-final appearance in the seven seasons since and they have not made it beyond the last eight in either.

The last time they reached the knockouts, they visited Thomond Park for the first time and were comfortably beaten out the gate.

On Saturday, they return to the same venue in arguably worse shape. Tenth in the Top 14, there is a realistic chance that they will miss out on next year's tournament - the first time the competition will go ahead without them.

Yesterday, the club held their media day to look ahead to the Munster match and even though they welcomed Scotland international Richie Gray to the squad, there was little cheer about their utterings.

Morose

Florian Fritz did an interview with l'Equipe's website with the headline 'Inevitably, it's difficult to live' summing up what the publication described as a "morose" mood in the wake of last week's disappointing defeat to Bordeaux.

There will be a fear factor from the French side who lost in Galway earlier this season, because they know full well how badly things can go wrong if you don't get to the pitch of things at Thomond Park.

The noises from the south-west of France are gloomy, but Munster can't let the doom into their world.

They are preparing as if Guy Noves and Fabien Pelous will be getting off the team bus on Saturday.

"People are talking about where they are on the table and luckily we don't look at that," Rassie Erasmus said.

"If you start analysing them it's just threats all over, it's world-class players all over. It's almost a Racing 92 with more stars and bigger and heavier players.

"A team that mauls 70 per cent of their lineouts so they put pressure everywhere they can use their size from mauling, scrumming and breakdown.

"And then they have got world-class finishers. Some people from the outside think they are tenth in the table in the Top 14 but if you just watch two weeks ago when they played Lyon, they just smashed them.

"A lot things just didn't go their way the last four, five games and they are used to playing in play-offs. And the history with us and them is massive. It's exciting."

Irish Independent

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