Sport Rugby

Tuesday 12 December 2017

O’Gara can prove the difference – Penney

Ronan O’Gara takes a breather during the Munster captain's run in Montpellier yesterday
Ronan O’Gara takes a breather during the Munster captain's run in Montpellier yesterday
Conor George

Conor George

RONAN O'GARA has been singled out as a likely match-winner for Munster in today's Heineken Cup semi-final by coach Rob Penney.

O'Gara is facing into his 10th Heineken Cup semi-final and has lost none of his competitive hunger, which is something Penney claimed will be critical to Munster's chances.

Penney believes that today's contest could be decided on the tiniest of margins and is confident that the presence of O'Gara in the Munster team gives them a significant advantage.

"We've got one of the most accomplished kickers from hand and for points the game has ever seen in Ronan O'Gara," said Penney.

"If the game is really close it'll come down to the minute detail of the accuracy of what we're doing, and if we're going to be thereabouts it will be because we have someone of the calibre of Ronan in our side."

The odds are stacked against Munster this evening, with captain Paul O'Connell emphasising the enormity of the task facing them.

"Clermont are probably one of the best sides that has ever played in Europe," he said. "We're going to have to be at the highest pitch we've ever been as players. Sometimes you can win games with eight or nine players playing well. We're going to need 15 players having stormers."

O'Connell believes that the Munster players are in a good place mentally, with the right amount of fear and excitement as they face into today's game.

"I think sometimes fear plays a big role in how we play and however much we had against Harlequins is probably doubled this time around.

"We've a good mix of fear and confidence. We know where we need to be mentally and physically to win this game," he added.

Meanwhile, Leinster boss Joe Schmidt could be providing a glimpse into the future with Ireland after naming both Jonny Sexton and Ian Madigan in the team to face Biarritz in today's Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final at the RDS.

With Gordon D'Arcy ruled out because of a calf problem, Madigan has been paired in the centre alongside Brian O'Driscoll, as Sexton is given the out-half role.

As well as D'Arcy, Schmidt has been forced to plan without Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien, yet his side are still rated 1/6 favourites to reach the final. Despite the bookies' short odds, captain Leo Cullen insists that Leinster will take nothing for granted.

"We're not focused on anything else other than winning this match," he said.

Irish Independent

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