“NOUS vivons tous dans un sous-marin jaune”. The song the Clermont fans sang last weekend after beating Munster. Losely translated it states that they all live in a yellow submarine. The song that will greet their men this weekend will be “Bienvenue à la maison de la douleur” – Welcome to the house of pain. That is the welcome that Clermont will recieve this weekend and dare I day it, an All Black match intensity is needed from the off this Saturday.
Last Sunday evening, at half time particularily, Munster looked in total control. The first half was almost flawless. Defensively the team were unbeatable. Last week I had spoken about how O Gara would be the key. He turned out to be just that. Yes he did miss a tackle to let in James for the try, (other schools of thought are blaming his back row for not filling in when the defence drifted) but he did kick us into losing bonus point country. The composure of the man has to be mentioned here. He is kicking flawlessly at the moment (for Munster anyway). The fact that as that kick went over the thought of winning the game went through the players minds, according to captain O Connell, it just shows where this team see themselves. After all, last season a losing bonus point in the “Submarine Dock” acted as the catalyst for Munster to win the entire competition. That may be thinking a little too far ahead at the moment, but still, the group is our own hands now and that is just how we like it.
Looking back at last week, knowing that defeat is always hard to take, (Sunday evening was spent cursing the ref), positives still came out of the day. Wallace is now definitely a huge option for eight. Even if Leamy and Williams come in, Wally at the back on attacking scrums is a definite option. The other huge positives are our wingers and full back. The commentators on Sunday even remarked that Munster are the best in Europe at the basics. Well, Howlett, Earls and Dowling are the best for Munster. The back three were under huge pressure and all came away relatively unscathed. Earls added another Heineken Cup cap to his short career and fielding those Brock James bombs will only build the confidence of a player who appears to have little weakness.
The loss of Tipoki and Flannery were huge last weekend. I am not blaming Sheahen and or Murphy for a second, but Flah and Rua are hard to replace. Defensively Munster could not keep up the level that they were at in the first half. That will not be a problem at home this week. You see, there is only one thing easier to manage than a second string French side and that is a French side who have just beaten you. Think I am mad? Well wait and see. Last year Clermont disrespected Munster and sent up a second string team. It still took Munster a good while to finish them off, but finish them off they did. Those second stringers you see had heart and pride. They wanted to make an impression. This weekend is different. Rougerie and Co will arrive up on Satruday afternoon. They’ll throw the ball about a bit and then, when things are not going their way and it looks as if they won’t win, they will turn an eye to the following weeks Top 14 fixture and they’ll fold like a house of cards in a hurricane. The house of pain awaits for them. These lads think they know atmosphere and pressure? They are sadly mistaken. Mark my words. If Munster set a marker in the first half next week, a bonus point win is on.
So. What to expect? Well, as mentioned. Meet these lads upfront and we are on. Get involved with them in the dark arts and we are in for a long day of the referee waving his arm around fully extended. Munster to win this one with a bonus point and blow this group wide open. Allez les Rouges.