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Dublin: 18 °C Saturday 18 August, 2018
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Letter from Bordeaux: Munster fans out in force in French sunshine

The southern province will have the greater support for tomorrow’s semi-final against Racing 92.

Murray Kinsella reports from Bordeaux

RACING 92 ARE supposed to have a degree of home ‘advantage’ for tomorrow’s Champions Cup semi-final.

But with Munster fans arriving into Bordeaux in their hordes today, it’s quite clear that Stade Chaban Delmas will be more like a home stadium for the Irish province.

It’s hard to get a grip on exactly how many of them will be there tomorrow, but Munster sold their full allocation of 4,000 tickets for this semi-final, while their fans also made another 1,000 purchases online.

Members of the Munster Supporters Club Some of the Munster Rugby Supporters Club in Bordeaux. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

There will certainly be more than 5,000 of them here tomorrow, with some educated guesses putting the figure at 8,000. It would be no mean feat given the expense of getting to Bordeaux, with charters laid on from Shannon and Cork especially for this game.

Racing sold their allocation of 2,000 tickets and had around 700 more sales online through the EPCR but they will definitely be outnumbered.

Train strikes – our taxi driver yesterday told us that France is good at three things: “wine,  food and strikes” – will make it more difficult to get down from Paris, but they should have a decent following nonetheless.

Munster’s numbers are set to be added to by a small band of hardcore Clermont supporters, somewhere in the region of 100 of them.

The two clubs have bonded strongly off the pitch in Europe, seeing each other as kindred spirits of sorts, and one of Clermont’s supporters clubs will make the trip along with a flag that reads ‘Yellow Army stands up and fights with Red Army.’

From early today, the Munster fans were flooding into Bordeaux and taking up berths in the Irish pubs, the Connemara and Molly Malones.

As we passed back towards town around 8pm following the pre-match press conferences at Chaban Delmas, the Munster crowd at the Connemara had swelled so much that the pub had put up safety barriers on the street outside.

Eoin Myers and Michael Hurley Eoin Myers from Cork City and Michael Hurley from Bantry, Cork. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The singsong was well and truly underway, with a big night awaiting the Munster masses.

Avoiding sunstroke was on the cards for many today, with the temperature in Bordeaux reaching 27°C, as it will again tomorrow.

The fine weather meant spirits were high across the board, nowhere more obviously than in the Munster squad as they arrived at the stadium to go through their captain’s run this evening.

It was more of a jog than a run, in truth, with head coach Johann van Graan keen to ensure there wasn’t too much energy wasted before tomorrow.

While Peter O’Mahony and the forwards went through some lineouts, assistant coach Felix Jones led the backs in grubber-kicking the ball to each other, urging them to get a sense of how the ball bounced off the hard ground. The little details that make a difference.

The newer breed of Munster’s players have a point to prove and more experienced heads like 29-year-old Conor Murray will have some urgency in trying to reach a final, particularly with Munster having fallen at this hurdle the last five times.

Watching over the captain’s run was the wise head of team manager Niall O’Donovan, the only surviving member of staff from a famous Munster day in Bordeaux in 2000 – although someone did joke that ‘old man’ Billy Holland was probably around back then too.

That day in 2000 was a glorious one for Munster as they swept their way past Toulouse in stunning fashion, only to lose to Northampton Saints in the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham.

Conor Murray Conor Murray lines up a kick earlier today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It’s scary to think that it was 18 years ago now, but memories of that day are somehow comforting as van Graan’s Munster get prepared for their chance to write new history.

The squad are staying slightly outside of town tonight, enjoying some peace and quiet before their red-hot semi-final, but they will be leaning on the volume and passion of their support at times tomorrow.

Time to stand up and fight again.

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Murray Kinsella

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