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ERCC: Munster v Toulouse Preview
Two of European rugby’s most successful clubs lock horns in an absolute banger of a fixture, this Saturday at Thomond Park
Munster will be looking to continue their impressive run in the Champions Cup when they host Toulouse this weekend. The Irish club have been in sensational form this term and will be looking to turn on the style in front of a vociferous Thomond Park fateful.
Munster v Toulouse | Saturday 1 April | Thomond Park | 18:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Munster 2/9 | Draw 21/1 | Toulouse 32/10
Munster (-8.5) 17/20 | Toulouse (+8.5) 17/20
Munster have been in their own unique stratosphere this season. Sitting in a close second to rivals Leinster on the Pro12 standings, the pride of Limerick lost just one of their six Pool 1 matches in Europe this season, and seem well on course for a potential Grand Final appearance. Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus has galvanised this Munster outfit, who have perennially underperformed in recent campaigns, and their sparkling attack-minded style-of-play has truly brought the magical atmosphere of seasons past back to Thomond Park in 2016/17.
With a pack that contains no fewer than fifteen internationals, and a backline with players of the pedigree of Simon Zebo, Francis Saili and Connor Murray (the pre-eminent no. 9 in world rugby at the moment), there will be nowhere to hide should this Munster unit end their campaign without any silverware to show for it. They are simply too good a side to be content with ‘near-misses’, and it is scary to think how good this team could become in the upcoming seasons under the tutelage of Erasmus (if he decides to stay put).
Peter O’Mahony’s men come off the back of a 50-14 domestic mauling of the dreadful Zebre, and their confidence will be sky-high. The fact that the likes of Murray were rested for that game will mean that they are fit and ready to fire Munster into the last-four this weekend… which they very well should.
It seems a lifetime ago that European Rugby’s most decorated club side last displayed the class and swagger that was once synonymous with its name. 2010 was the last time Toulouse added to their record tally of Heineken Cup/ ERCC titles, and Ugo Mola’s men have done little this season to justify any claims that 2016/17 will be any different, after qualifying from Pool 2 on points difference with just three wins and one draw to show for their efforts. The side sits in an astonishing tenth place on the Top 14 table (something that would have been just unthinkable five seasons ago), with their ageing players seemingly lack the passion and hunger for the game that was so evident in their youth.
Something needs to be done about the plight of this once mighty franchise – and fast. Thierry Dusautoir, now well passed his best, has seen his beloved club slump to six defeats from their nine games in the new year, and will realise, deep down, how unlikely a victory this weekend will be. Still, along with the rest of Toulouse’s ‘old-brigade’ France’s former captain will do everything in his power to perhaps upset the apple cart, and down one of the competition favourites. His tenacity may just stand Toulouse in good stead come Saturday.
Verdict: Munster 3/10
I’m tipping the Munstermen to go all the way and lift the ERCC trophy this season, and I can’t see this current crop of Toulouse players standing in their way this weekend. Play it safe and bet on the Irish.