Saturday 24 February 2018

It's going to be ferocious -- but we'll be up for battle

Simon Mannix

Any trip to face a French side on their own patch is a daunting one -- but playing a French team that you've just beaten handily is even tougher.

Perpignan can be a different beast at home and the Stade Aime Giral is one of the more difficult stadiums in French rugby to go and get a victory. We are under no illusions of the challenge that lies ahead of us.

I think the nature, pride and ferocity of the Catalan spirit is reflected in their supporters. They demand and expect a lot from their team, but the players are held in a very high regard because of what they represent to the area.

Every time they pull on that shirt, they are expected to represent it with absolute pride and the passion that is the make-up of the Catalan people.

At the best of times, it is a pretty ferocious place.

When I was there for the Clermont game, there was a burning desire from their supporters. and they will be demanding the same from their players this weekend. It's going to be a new experience for a lot of our players. It will be challenging, but we will be well prepared for it.

Over the years, I always felt that Clermont were probably the best French supporters in terms of the respect that they offer the opposition. But when you come to places like Toulon and Perpignan, the fans are absolutely focused on one thing: getting right behind their side.

They are all very attached to the team, the club is at the centre of the city, so from the boucherie to the boulangerie, everybody is going to have an investment in this game.


The Perpignan boys are going to be reminded all week about what happened in Thomond. Everywhere they go the people will be putting the pressure on them to really come out and perform.

That pressure will be gradually increased and they will be reminded that they simply didn't preform in Limerick. Then it will reach a crescendo just before kick-off.

It may be a six-day turnaround, but it will be a long week for Perpignan. It will be a terrific challenge for us, but these are the games that every player wants to be involved in.

We are going there with a good level of confidence; we came out of Thomond Park with a huge sense of satisfaction. I'm not sure how many times in Munster's history that they've put over 30 points on a French side, so getting the job done was a great feeling.

We've had a very good week preparation wise and, despite the win, there was still a lot for us to work on.

The execution of some of our basic skills was not as good as it could have been and that will be severely tested tomorrow. There are some other things that we are looking to put right and if we can bring the mental toughness that is going to be required, then our squad of 23 guys are more than capable of putting it up to Perpignan in their own house.

Maybe a lot of their players aren't known too well here in Ireland, but our guys had a full understanding of who they were facing last week and what their strengths were.

So, when we started seeing Perpignan breaking out on the counter-attack a couple of times from turnovers, we weren't caught on the hop. We knew it was coming, but I thought we did well to minimise the number of times that they could break by controlling the ball.

That's something we'll need to do again tomorrow.

I think the players realise this will be one of their all-time toughest European games and it will take a huge performance for us to come away with the win.

In my time in France, I never won at Perpignan. I know Anthony Foley played on a tough day out there in 2003 and a few of the current players were involved in the 2009 win.

So, within the camp we have both fond memories and lessons learned from trips out there. Rest assured, the coaches will be providing the guys with the knowledge needed to cope with the hostile evironment -- they all understand what lies ahead of them.

Irish Independent

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