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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 21 May, 2018
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Munster not thinking about all-Irish final before facing the heat in Bordeaux

Peter O’Mahony and his side have a big hurdle in front of them in the shape of Racing 92.

Murray Kinsella reports from Bordeaux

LEINSTER SET OUT their stall in startlingly impressive fashion yesterday, and now Munster have the chance to ensure an all-Irish Champions Cup final as they meet Racing 92 in the heat at Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux [KO 3.15pm Irish time, BT Sport].

While there are varying opinions from supporters on whether a decider between the two Irish provinces is really of the ‘dream’ variety, there is little doubting it would create major hype.

The fact that Leinster moved into the final in such comprehensive and dominant fashion underlined their status as title favourites once again, but Munster aren’t wasting time looking ahead to what is possible in Bilbao.

A view of the captain's run Munster huddle up at the Stade Chaban Delmas yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“That’s certainly something that I’m not in a position to be commenting on or thinking about even,” said Munster captain Peter O’Mahony when the prospect of meeting Leinster in the final was raised after his side’s captain’s run yesterday evening.

“We’ve a big game against one of the best teams in Europe and that’s what our minds are firmly focused on.”

The heat was the topic du jour yesterday and with the temperature due to hit 27°C again today, it is certain to be a factor.

Racing have picked what looks like their fittest possible team and the benches will be even more influential than ever, with Simon Zebo’s presence among the Munster replacements potentially key.

Munster went through a casual captain’s run yesterday after Racing had done much the same, keen not to overdo it in the blistering sun.

“I struggle in the heat, personally,” said O’Mahony. “We’re not really acclimatised to it so it’s certainly a factor. It’s 27, 28 degrees.

“We’re lucky that we’ve come off the back of two South African games that we played in dry conditions with temperature and humidity quite high and the altitude as well.

“But it’s a different type of heat out there. It’s going to be a factor but it’s there for both teams. I don’t think either side has been playing in these kinds of temperatures for the last few months so it’s going to be difficult for both sides.”

Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Conor Oliver, Sam Arnold, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn and Dave O'Callaghan Some of the Munster squad take a seat after training. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster’s record in Champions Cup semi-finals is poor, having lost their five most recent games at this stage of the competition.

Racing, in contrast, have only played in one semi-final, winning away to Leicester to secure a place in the 2016 decider, which they lost to Saracens.

The sense around Munster is that this game is an opportunity for this group of players to truly mark their progress and development, but Racing have very similar feelings ahead of this fixture.

“We signed with Racing to play this kind of match, to be part of the elite and write a new page in the story of the club,” said Laurent Travers, who co-coaches Racing with Laurent Labit.

“We want to raise the European Cup but we know we have no right to win. Preparation is key for our performance and I’m certain we’ve done the preparation to be ready.”

Les deux Laurents will have confidence in their squad, which includes the sensational Leone Nakarawa, backline threats like Teddy Thomas, lineout brilliance in Wenceslas Lauret and others, as well as a fine bench that includes Dan Carter and Joe Rokocoko.

Munster, meanwhile, have belief of their own that they can finally overcome this semi-final hurdle.

“I think the main thing that’s giving us confidence is the way we’ve trained and performed over the last six, eight weeks and longer,” said O’Mahony.

“There’s been a lot of hard work gone in, our training standard has been really high and for me that’s where I get my confidence, seeing the guys training well.

Dan Carter Dan Carter will be sprung from the Racing bench. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Games like Toulon are incredibly difficult games and hard games to win. Knock-out rugby in Europe is some of the hardest games you’ll ever play in and to come out the right side of a team like Toulon gives you confidence but it’s a different challenge tomorrow. They’re a different team, a different animal.

“It’s the semi-final of a European competition, it makes it a little bit more difficult always.

“As you know from my record anyway, semi-finals are definitely hard to win.”

Racing 92:

15. Louis Dupichot
14. Teddy Thomas
13. Virimi Vakatawa
12. Henry Chavancy
11. Marc Andreu
10. Pat Lambie
9. Maxime Machenaud (captain)

1. Eddy Ben Arous
2. Camille Chat
3. Cedate Gomes Sa
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Leone Nakarawa
6. Wenceslas Lauret
7. Bernard Le Roux
8. Yannick Nyanga

Replacements:

16. Dimitri Szarzewski
17. Vasil Kakovin
18. Viliamu Afatia
19. Antonie Claassen
20. Baptiste Chouzenoux
21. Teddy Iribaren
22. Dan Carter
23. Joe Rokocoko

Munster:

15. Andrew Conway
14. Keith Earls
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Rory Scannell
11. Alex Wootton
10. Ian Keatley
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Jack O’Donoghue
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Rhys Marshall
17. James Cronin
18. John Ryan
19. Gerbrandt Grobler
20. Robin Copeland
21. James Hart
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Simon Zebo

Referee: JP Doyle [RFU].

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Murray Kinsella

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