ERCC: Munster v Toulon Preview

Sunday’s dual between two-time European champions Munster and three-time winners Toulon at Thomond Park seems a contest engendered by the Rugby Gods themselves.

Munster v Toulon
31 March 16h15
Thomond Park

To Win (80 Mins)
Munster 5/10
Draw 20/1
Toulon 17/10

With the business end of this season’s Champions Cup at hand, and considering the quality of Europe’s top clubs at present, all of this weekend’s fixtures are potential classics in the making.

Johann van Graan’s Munstermen are back to full strength following the return of a number of players from Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign. The men from Limerick have been in fine touch despite missing their internationals, having won four of their last six matches in all competitions. With the quality at their disposal, and in the presence of the Thomond Park faithful, nothing short of a win will be acceptable for the Irishmen.

With a Pro14 playoff basically assured, van Graan and his charges will fully focus their attention on this weekend’s encounter. Toulon may not be the team of old, but they have proven that they still have plenty to offer and cannot be underestimated.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this showdown involves the battle up front, with both clubs being renowned for their abrasive nature in the trenches. Toulon possess arguably the most powerful pack in all of Europe and so the key for Munster will be halting the progress of the likes of Facundo Isa, Romain Taofifenua and company. If they can match, or even dominate the advantage line, the win will be there for the taking.

Whoa. What a way to prepare for a Champions Cup knockout. Toulon’s 49-0 Top 14 win over defending Champions Clermont was fantastic by any means. The way they mixed brute force with scintillating attack harked back to the days of Botha, Wilkinson and Giteau. Considering the sparkling backline they possess, a similarly assertive showing up front this weekend should be the catalyst for another great (and rather unexpected) European victory.

Fullback-come-winger Chris Ashton has simply lit up the Top 14 this campaign, with his incredible 21-tries equalling the record previously set by ex-Clermont ace Napolioni Nalaga - with four rounds of the regular season still to come, no less.

If his forwards do get the ascendency at the collisions, Munster will be hard-pressed to stop his freakish talent from wreaking more havoc and putting pay to any hopes at another European title.

Verdict: Munster 5/10
With Connor Murray at the base and Peter O’Mahony in the thick of the action, one would think that the home side will grind out the win on Sunday to progress to the last four. It’s going to be a close call, though.

Written by Shaun Goosen for

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