Sunday 21 January 2018

Erasmus looking for crucial unity

Rassie Erasmus Picture: Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus Picture: Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

From 150 top-flight European games Munster have claimed 103 wins, scored 389 tries and scored a staggering 3,752 points.

As two-time champions from the Heineken Cup days, Munster are regarded as one of the leading sides in the competition, but it is 19 seasons since they had a worse campaign than last year.

Back in 1997-'98 they only picked up two wins from six pool matches, and the reality is that Rassie Erasmus' side will have to at least win four of their games to have any hope of progressing this season.

Since the 2011-'12 season Munster have only won once in France, and who will forget JJ Hanrahan's heroics that day to claim victory at Perpignan. In 2011, they beat Castres, but since then they have lost two semi-finals on French soil as well as a 22-17 defeat to Sunday's opponents in 2012.

He may be on the Racing bench tomorrow, but Ronan O'Gara was at the heart of that Munster team and he converted Sean Dougall's try and landed a penalty that day. Simon Zebo, who will be a key player in Paris this weekend, also crossed for a try on that occasion.

Certainly Racing 92's budget is far beyond Munster's and the players at their disposal now indicate what a challenge it will be. Last season they fell one step from Champions Cup glory, but they followed that disappointment up with victory in the French championship.

This is a severe test, but Erasmus hopes that Munster's unity will balance the scales.

"Unfortunately, it is what it is. They're going to have the money and going to have no restrictions on how many guys they can get into their team," said Erasmus.

"We can either moan about that or we can say, 'Listen, our strength is in unity and tighter crowds'. I think it's always tougher when you just get a bounce off that."

Irish Independent

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