Limerick Rugby
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Munster will travel to Paris with no shortage of self-confidence

(Pictured, Same again please Conor next Sunday)
By Aidan Corr
SINCE the season of 1998/99 the Irish rugby provinces have been making strides in European Rugby. Ulster lifted the European Heineken Cup that season, with Munster losing to eventual finalists Colomiers at the quarter final stage in Toulouse and the Reds went on to win their two titles in 2006 and 2008. Leinster followed with three titles and they too are confident of a good campaign in the current series.
At this week’s Munster press day much of the talk centered on the Paris 4G venue, the challenge ahead and the confidence within the Limerick-based camp. The squad trained on the UL 4G pitch this week with Peter O’Mahony pointing out that these pitches are nothing new to any of the teams playing in the Guinness PRO14.
Racing have a good home record and have won seven of their last nine games in this competition in the Paris. Sunday sees Racing 92 play their first European Cup fixture in the new U Arena and it promises to be a big occasion. Watch out for the two leading ball carriers, CJ Stander (71) and Leone Nakarawa, (on 70), and this is just one of the high-quality battles that could define the result :”They are a class rugby outfit,” Peter O’Mahony said, “they led 21-0 early on last week-end against Clermont but we won’t want that to happen to us. It is certainly going to be a big physical confrontation.”
It will no doubt be a strange feeling to have former Shannon star Donnacha Ryan to cope with, particularly in the lineouts but Munster are seasoned campaigners in Europe. Their record speaks for itself and they inflicted Racing’s heaviest defeat in this competition last season, losing by 25 points. Only Munster have conceded fewer tries than Racing (five) so far this season while Stander, Zebo, Holland and Rory Scannell have played every minute of the four Champions Cup pool games in this campaign. If Munster lose it will be their 50th defeat in European competition (48 Champions Cup and one Challenge Cup) but all these stats are irrelevant once the first whistle is sounded on Sunday.
With Munster, the confidence is never far from the surface. The bigger the challenge, the more they like it and they certainly have the players that can do the business, even in the tense atmosphere of a winter Sunday evening in Paris. The French side walloped Clermont last week-end but the Auvergne showed 15 changes from the side that started against Saracens in their previous Champions Cup game.
“Munster are good at adapting to change,” Johaan Graan said this week. We need to be disciplined but from our last seven games we conceded 74 penaltes and the opposition sides conceded 73. Last week we showed good pace, the speed of our passing was good and we defended our 22 well but one game has nothing to do with another game and our preparation for Sunday will be based on what we can expect from Racing. The 4G surface is not really an issue for us, it is the same for both sides so we can adapt to that.”
Sunday’s game kicksoff a 3.15 Irish time and is shown live on FR2, Sky Sports and beIN Sports. Referee is Matthew Carley of England with the other match officials also from the RU.

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