Monday 26 February 2018

Simon Mannix: Perpignan will lay it all on the line for the shirt

Mike Sherry looks for a gap during last weekend’s game against the Dragons before suffering cruciate ligament damage during the game at Rodney Parade
Mike Sherry looks for a gap during last weekend’s game against the Dragons before suffering cruciate ligament damage during the game at Rodney Parade

Simon Mannix

Despite this being a massive Heineken Cup week, I have to say it has been no busier than any other. I'd like to think we cover every single base with our preparation for every game we play, but obviously, there is an extra significance with the Heineken Cup and Munster.

This competition is hugely important to the team and the province, so there is an added interest attached to it.

And that is only right, the Heineken Cup deserves its place at the pinnacle of everyone's tree.

Munster's history is dotted with special Heineken Cup occasions and to be one of the top- ranked teams in the competition for so long is a testament to the players that have gone before.

But we have a generation of guys here now that have experienced the Heineken Cup semi-finals last year. The incredible history has been passed on by previous teams and they are as proud as any Munster side from the past as they compete for european glory.

It was great to face into this week on the back of another win, but given that I wasn't at the Dragons game, it is hard to say too much about it. But from what I have watched, it was pleasing.

We were facing a Dragons team coming off an away win in Glasgow – and we know that's not an easy place to get a result.

Their team is night and day from where it was last year, so you have to be happy with any win against the Dragons.

It was an incredibly gutsy effort by our guys. We were under a lot of pressure and showed a lot of heart to win over there.

QUALITY

On a sour note, any time a player picks up a serious injury, it's a blow to the squad and so it was with Mike Sherry's injury.

Mike is quality footballer and is knocking on the door of the international team, but we have just got to move forward now.

The medical staff will be doing their bit to get him back on the field as soon as possible. It is a long-term injury, but he will get all the care and expertise that we have here.

While it is sad news for Mike, it is an opportunity for someone else to step in and show the depth that we are creating here at Munster.

While the boys were playing in Wales, I was in Perpignan for their game against Clermont to have a closer look at our opponents. And like all French teams, they will pose a very difficult challenge on Sunday.

They are very sure of themselves, they are a very abrasive team with a lot of individual talent and you know they will lay it all on the line for the shirt. The Perpignan region is an extremely proud area, with their Catalan links. I won't say they have the same strong attachment as Munster have to their shirt, but they are certainly passionate about wearing their blood and gold. We are expecting an extremely tough battle, both home and away.

In my time in France with Racing Metro, we had a few really good battles with Perpignan, but the Aimé Giral is a stadium that I never won at, so that gives you an idea how tough it is to win there.

Next week we have to go there in the right frame of mind and victory on Sunday would be the best way to do that.

The early kick-off is always an issue, but it is part and parcel of being a professional rugby player; television dictates a lot of these things. I know it's not a popular time for anyone, but you just have to get on with it. We have adjusted our preparation accordingly.

And we are very happy with our preparation this week, we have managed to fit in loads of work, but it all comes down to 80 minutes of real application and desire from the guys.

Irish Independent

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