Sunday 19 November 2017

McFarland: I've always admired Munster's spirit

Dan McFarland Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dan McFarland Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Glasgow and Munster are familiar foes and tomorrow evening at Scotstoun the Warriors will be looking to redress the balance from their last European meeting.

Guaranteed to cross paths at least twice each season, this year they have already met in the Champions Cup while two seasons ago they were opponents in the Guinness Pro12 final.

In Belfast that day, the Irish province were outclassed, while the Thomond Park meeting in October was a culmination of an emotional week that resulted in an emotional cacophony in which a 14-man Munster side blew the Scots away.

In between now and then, Munster went to Glasgow and won in the regular season game, but that has little relevance given both teams were down numbers due to the November internationals.

Tomorrow, they meet on a level playing-field; two teams on the cusp of the European Champions Cup quarter-finals and both with their own realistic ambitions of going much, much further.

Munster have the history, but the Scots have the pedigree and, as their coaching ticket prepare to bid farewell at the end of this season, there is a sense that Gregor Townsend's excellent work can only be cemented by a European run.

Former Connacht prop and assistant coach Dan McFarland will join his current boss in moving to the Scotland set-up at the end of the season and given his deep roots in Irish rugby is well aware of what's coming.

And he is expecting a very different game than the one that took place 24 hours after Anthony Foley was laid to rest.

"There were exceptional circumstances," he recalled.

"It was a very tragic week. Munster had to deal with a lot of emotional issues, psychological issues, and it was the same for us from a different perspective.

"They certainly demonstrated a massive resilience and showed the qualities the club is well known for by pulling together.

"The weeks since then have been a huge credit to them as well. I admire them for that. I spent a long time in Ireland and I've always admired them. I know a lot of the people around the organisation very well.

"That sense of family and togetherness, that fighting spirit when times get hard, is something that has characterised them for a long time.

"But that characterises the Warriors as well. This is a place that relishes difficult times; it is not an organisation that shies away from that. They want that, they want something that tests them, whether it is the weather or anything else."

Starting with that unforgettable occasion, Munster have been on a run of 11 wins in 12 games and know that a result in Scotland will book their place in the last eight.

Much of their improvement has come in defence, but their pack has also been a boon with their set-piece and breakdown work impressing in last week's hammering of Racing 92.

Glasgow themselves have won five on the trot including back-to-back wins over the French champions and are ready to meet fire with fire.

"Munster bring a very specific game-plan which they execute extremely well, they're right up there with the best, whether it is in their forward play, their defence, their kicking game.

"They can be lethal in their attacks. They are certainly focused around an attritional style of play and if we don't deal with that then it is going to be a very difficult afternoon.

"We have to front up. We have to bring our A-game."

Irish Independent

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