Saturday 25 November 2017

Paris rivalry to be fired up again

Conor Murray catches a high ball during training in Limerick Photo:Sportsfile
Conor Murray catches a high ball during training in Limerick Photo:Sportsfile

John Fallon

Munster and Stade Francais will tomorrow renew a rivalry which has been dormant for almost 12 years, having clashed in the knockout stages in four out of five seasons at the start of the Millennium.

Tomorrow's rearranged clash will be the first time these two have met in the pool stages of the European Cup.

Munster go into the clash with three wins from their previous four encounters, two of which were played in France and two at Thomond Park.

The first clash came in 2000 when Munster won 27-10 in a quarter-final at Thomond Park in a season when they reached the final for the first time, only to go down to Northampton Saints in controversial circumstances.

Stade Francais gained revenged a year later when they won 16-15 in a semi-final clash in Lille.

They met for a third season running in 2002 in the quarter-finals at Stade Jean Bouin in Paris where Munster emerged victorious by 16-14.

The next and final meeting between them - until now - came again in the quarter-finals when Stade Francais scored 32 points at Thomond Park but still bowed out of the competition.

That was in the quarter-finals in 2004 when Munster won 37-32 before losing the semi-final to Wasps by the same scoreline at Lansdowne Road.

Munster, who are trying to avoid losing a third consecutive pool game for the second season in a row, have enjoyed a decent record in France over the years.

This will be their 31st clash in France in the European Cup and the record so far stands at 12 wins and 18 losses and they have yet to draw a match there.

Nine of the 30 games in France have been in the knockout stages, with six losses and three victories. There have been 21 pool matches in France, nine of which resulted in victories.

Munster's record in France started poorly with five defeats before beating Colomiers 31-15 in the 1999-'00 season.

Munster's last win in France was when a late JJ Hanrahan try gave them an 18-17 win over Perpignan just over two years ago.

The task facing them tomorrow is illustrated by the fact that the French champions have only lost twice in 38 European Cup games at their Stade Jean Bouin. Munster were the first to win there in 2002 and Harlequins escaped with a 15-10 victory in 2008.

Irish Independent

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