Sport Rugby

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Hungry to lay marker for Ireland after sealing Toulouse showdown

Player Diary

Paul O'Connell lifts the Heineken Cup in 2008 - one of my greatest memories as a Munster fan
Paul O'Connell lifts the Heineken Cup in 2008 - one of my greatest memories as a Munster fan

Dave Kilcoyne

I'll be honest, this time last week, when I was writing this diary, I doubted that a winning bonus point against Edinburgh was going to be enough for us to get a home quarter-final.

But to know on Saturday night that the five points would get us back to Thomond Park was a massive boost for us all. And then to back that up with what was probably one of our most rounded displays of the year was unreal. From that point of view, we were very happy.

In the end we managed to get six tries. We knew that we needed to get the four, so to run in a couple of extra ones was a real bonus. I think we deserved them all with the display.

The plan was to hit them hard and fast, but we thought it might take a little bit longer to break them down for the first try. The plan worked from the off, though. Our set-piece was strong and, thankfully, the gaps appeared for us. It was a textbook display and outcome.

The conditions were difficult underfoot and with so many scrums and resets it was a busy game for the pack, but I was fine after the game. I was just delighted, as always, to take the win in Thomond Park, but the scrums were very frustrating for us at times.

Dominant

We felt that Edinburgh were looking for penalties by going to ground immediately and giving the referee a 50-50 call to make. We would have preferred for the contest to go on longer, because we were quite dominant and we thought it was a great chance for us to show that we had the upper hand.

Overall, I think we had the beating of our individual opponents and as a front-row and pack, we definitely were the stronger group. It was satisfying to play our part in the win.

Once again the atmosphere was incredible. Before the game Rob told us that Edinburgh had only sold a few dozen tickets from their share, so it really was a partisan crowd. To have over 26,000 Munster fans creating that noise for an early kick-off was brilliant and it really got us going.

I know I sound like a bit of a scratched record, but you cannot underestimate how important it is for us to have our family, friends, neighbours and fellow Munster fans there giving us that lift.

Then, on the back of the win and sealing the home quarter-final, it was great to see that we'll be facing Toulouse. It will be my first time playing against them and they are widely regarded as one of the finest Heineken Cup sides of all time.

Having them coming to Limerick in April will be some occasion. It is a huge boost for the city, and a game like this with one of Europe's heavyweights coming is just what the fans deserve. It's really rewarding to be able to give something like that back to our loyal fans.

It's hard to believe that for all the times that Toulouse and Munster have been in the group stages and latter end of the Heineken Cup, the French have never been to Limerick for a game before. And I’m sure coming to a place like Thomond Park, they will not want to lose their first ever outing either. That's what we have to remember and be ready for.

I have great memories of going to the 2008 Heineken Cup final in the Millennium Stadium when Munster beat Toulouse. I'll never forget Denis Leamy's try, the celebrations after it and the pure joy that the players showed with the cup.

It is one of my greatest rugby moments and memories as a Munster supporter. And that was the last

meeting between the sides so we'd be very keen to keep the winning run going!

It's going to be a huge battle for us, though. We all saw how they played against Saracens a couple of weeks ago, they are a massive pack, they have a hugely powerful scrum and it will be a real test for us.

We are happy with how all facets of our set-piece are going, but we are going to have to push that on again and look for an improvement ahead of this test. If you let them intimidate you, they can destroy you, the challenge is to have the work – both physical and mental – done beforehand. It will be an intense occasion and an insane atmosphere.

After Sunday's game it was a real quick turnaround from red to green for me.

I got a few minutes to say hello to my parents and a couple of the cousins that were at the game, but after that it was straight up the road to Carton House for the Ireland squad.

I was thrilled to be making the trip. It can be hard to flick the switch over to a different set-up, especially after a big win, but this time around I couldn't wait to get in the door of the hotel and start my preparation.

We always end up rooming with one of the other lads, so I have been paired with Iain Henderson again. We have roomed together before, so we are well used to each other. He is a good lad and we get on well – and at least I didn't get lumped with Damien Varley!

The big focus for me now is tomorrow's clash with the England Saxons at Kingsholm – familiar enough territory after our win there a couple of weeks ago.

I have been named as the starting loose-head alongside Ulster's Rob Herring, so it's a great chance for me.

After missing out in November, this is a massive game for me. I'm hugely hungry to force my way back into the Six Nations squad.

This is where I want to be right now, I have my chance and the aim is to take it with both hands.

Online Editors

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