MUNSTER and Toulouse renew old rivalries this weekend when they meet at Thomond Park in the first round of the Heineken Champions Cup. The sides last met at this stage in last season’s quarter-final, with the French side coming out victorious after a penalty shootout.
That was the most recent version of a rivalry that dates back to the early days of the Heineken Cup. Toulouse have won the competition five times to Munster’s two and were the inaugural champions in 1997/98.
After a lean period of 11 years, the French side earned their fifth title in 2021 with victory over La Rochelle. They come to Thomond Park as current leaders of the French Top 14 with eight wins, three defeats, and a draw from their 11 outings. However, their form is patchy with two of those defeats coming in recent weeks.
Their star player, Antoine Dupont, is available again after a recent ban that initially saw him miss the fixture was overturned. Dupont is a generational player and Munster will have to keep an eye on the Toulouse general.
The last time these sides met at Thomond Park was in the last 16 stage of the Heineken Champions Cup 2020/21 season. Once more it was the French side that came out victorious on a 40-33 scoreline.
Munster know they have the ability to hurt Toulouse. With their recent upturn in form, confidence will be high within the camp.
Following their 38-17 bonus point win over Edinburgh, Munster remain eighth in the United Rugby Championship table. It was an impressive second half display from Graham Rowntree’s men after several mistakes in the opening 40 minutes.
A missed Rory Scannell tackle accounted for Edinburgh’s opening try. Joey Carbery handed them a second score soon after. Scannell made up for his error with a try before half time after Craig Casey crossed earlier in the half.
It was a different story in the second half with Calvin Nash continuing his fine form with another excellent try. The dominance continued Gavin Coombes landing the bonus point score on 52 minutes. Carbery then added a late fifth try to cap off an excellent night at the office.
That makes it three wins on the bounce in the ever-improving Rowntree era. The biggest test of the season comes on Sunday with the visit of the French kingpins but anybody who has watched Munster in recent weeks must have taken notice of the improvements made.
Antoine Frisch has been a key part to that from outside centre. Frisch has a happy knack of timing passes close to the try line to absolute perfection with Scannell the latest beneficiary against Edinburgh. His introduction has been a timely bonus.
A fast start will probably be needed for Munster to have any hope against Toulouse but cutting out those errors that cost tries is a must.
If that happens, Munster are in with a big chance of victory.