“Twould be a great country this if only they had the weather” was the rueful comment from a Munster supporter looking out from the porch of the Costa Vasca Hotel as the Munster forwards went about the line-out warm-up in the lashing rain.
And the conditions are expected to be much the same at the time this semi-final kicks off in the Anoeta Stadium where worked were furiously working since early morning erecting the posts and re-marking the pitch after last night’s soccer game there.
There was little evidence of the estimated 7000 Munster supporters that have traveled for this game but stadium officials say that at lunchtime today there were just 1500 tickets left to sell in the 32,400 capacity stadium.
Munster were forced to make late changes yesterday when both Doug Howlett and Ian Dowling failed to come through the Captain’s Run and Lifeim Mafi moves from the bench to take over from Dowling with Denis Hurley in for Howlett and Tom Gleeson on the bench.
Out of contention for a place in the Heineken Cup next year through their own domestic League, Biarritz must win today and then beat Toulouse if they are to compete in theis lucrative competition next season.
There is also the added attraction of making it an all French final but from a Munster point of view there will need to be a reproduction of the form they showed earlier against Perpignan and more recently against Northampton Saints if they are to deny the French and earn themselves a place in the final for the fifth time.
Munster: 15. Paul Warwick, 14. Denis Hurley, 13. Keith Earls, 12. Jean de Villiers, 11. Lifeimi Mafi, 10. Ronan O’Gara, 9. Tomas O’Leary, 1. Marcus Horan, 2. Jerry Flannery, 3. John Hayes, 4. Donncha O’Callaghan, 5. Mick O´Driscoll, 6. Alan Quinlan, 7. David Wallace, 8. James Coughlan, Replacements: 16. Damien Varley, 17. Julien Brugnaut, 18. Tony Buckley, 19. Nick Williams, 20 Niall Ronan, 21 Peter Stringer 22.Tom Gleeson 23.Scott Deasy.
Biarritz: 15. Jérôme Porical, 14. Farid Sid, 13. David Marty, 12. Maxime Mermoz, 11. Christophe Manas, 10. Gavin Hume, 9. Nicolas Durand, 1. Perry Freshwater, 2. Guilhem Guirado, 3. Nicolas Mas (capt), 4. Olivier Olibeau, 5. Robins Tchale Watchou, 6. Yoann Vivalda, 7. Bertrand Guiry, 8. Yannick Parent,
16. Marius Tincu, 17. Jérôme Schuster, 18. Kisi Pulu, 19. Charles Geli, 20. David Mele, 21. Jean-Philippe Grandclaude, 22. Philip Burger, 23. Rimas Alvarez Kairelis,