That stunning result from Franklin’s Garden’s last night where Scarlets scored a remarkable bonus point victory makes the outcome from today’s game in Toulouse all the more crucial.
In ordinary circumstances a point of any description from a trip to the south of France would be deemed acceptable, but now with Scarlets firmly in control of Pool One and Munster to go there next, this afternoon's game game in Stade Ernest-Wallon assumes a totally new dimension.
And never mind the fact that Castres have named a side that excludes a recognised kicker in the starting XV, French sides do not not like to lose in front of their home fans and are notoriously difficult to handle in the circumstances Munster find them today as Paul O'Connell outlines. “This is probably the worst time to play them. Early stage of the competition, at home, a week after they've lost. They'll be looking to make a big statement today.”
O'Connell's coach Tony McGahan believes need to be switched-on from the off. “With any side away, particularly a French side if you give them momentum you give them a foothold in the game that allows them get their big forward over the gain line and you lose that contact area.” he said.
“They're then able to get on the front foot, they just build 'n build and you can almost see them grow in front of your eyes. They fill the field. We had that in Toulon last year where you get an irrepressible force that you can't stop. So we need to make sure that our forwards front up, that we all front up. Especially in that first twenty minutes to make sure we get a foothold in the game and are not playing catch up.”
It's an assessment O'Connell agrees with. “Like all French sides, you just can't let them gain momentum. They can play at pace, have a great off loading game and if you let them get into that they're very hard to stop. You have to get their ball carriers on the ground.You just have to stop them playing the game on their terms.”
What should work in Munster's favour is the decision to play the game in Toulouse, a move that hasn't apparently found favour with their supporters so it's possible Munster could have as much support as their opponents.
However, its not on terraces or in the stands this game will be won or lost and as both coach and captain point out the course of the match could be determined early rather than late in the game.
Castres Olympique: F Denos; M Evans, P Bonnefond, P Garcia, M Andreu; P Bernard, T Lacrampe; A Peikrishvili, B Mach, K Wihongi, S Murray, I Tekori, J Bornman, Y Caballero, C Masoe [capt] Replacements: M Bonello, M Coetzee, L Ducalcon, M Rolland, R Capo Ortega, R Teulet, R Tales, P Lakafia
Munster: J Murphy; D Howlett, D Barnes, L Mafi, D Hurley; R O'Gara, C Murray; W du Preez, D Varley, B Botha, D Ryan, P O'Connell [capt], P O'Mahony, N Ronan, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Fogarty, M Horan, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, D Leamy, T O'Leary, I Keatley, W Chambers
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)