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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 5 June, 2020

‘I’d be licking my lips': ROG v Munster an intriguing battle for O'Callaghan

‘No one gives them a chance, they barely qualified. It could be a great story.’

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

DONNCHA O’CALLAGHAN SEES his old team-mate as a fly in the ointment as Munster look to bounce back with a big performance away to Racing 92 in the Champions Cup.

The southern province slipped to a disappointing defeat to Leinster in the Aviva Stadium last Saturday and this weekend one of their favourite sons is hoping to compound the misery with a home win in Paris.

Ordinarily, what O’Callaghan calls a ‘kick up the ass’ from Leinster, could easily be taken as decent fire-stoking preparation for a crucial European trip. But the double Heineken Cup-winning lock knows that the Top 14 champions will be well warned with O’Gara in harness as defence coach.

“He absolutely will (have an influence),” O’Callaghan said as he helped promote Vodafone’s ‘team of us’ shirt-swap.

“He’s a competitor. He can bring emotional attachment that the lads will want to go well for him, to reflect the work he’s doing. Well, you’d like to think that…

“Big players, they could see it as just another big game, whereas he’ll hopefully – sorry, hopefully not – make sure they rise to such a challenge.

Worcester Warriors Donncha O'Callaghan Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

It’s put to O’Callaghan that ROG might tempt Racing in to over-thinking matters or get too emotionally attached to play the home tie as clear favourites should.

“No, he’s such a straight arrow,” says the Worcester Warriors lock with a palm chopping down in front of him.

“I just know if I was playing for someone like him, who gives it is all like he does, you’d want to reflect the week well in the squad and the work he puts into you. The good guys understand that. They understand it’s a massive match for him and they’ll put out their best performance.”

Rassie Erasmus will hope to see plenty of digging deep from his personnel too after a positive opening few weeks of the season were given an unsettling bump in Dublin. In an inter-pro though, underdog tags really don’t count for much. But travelling to trade blows with one of Europe’s richest clubs undoubtedly gets the juices flowing for players on these shores.

Donncha O’Callaghan Donncha O'Callaghan was in dublin to launch Vodafone's #TeamofUs shirt-swap initiative. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“No doubt we’re underdogs going into it, but I’d be licking my lips if I was in that squad.

“What’s gone on over the past year, it could be the best Munster story ever in terms of the opportunity they have to do well in this. No one gives them a chance, they barely qualified. It could be a great story. It’s backs-to-the-wall stuff… probably exactly where we (the double European champion sides) were.

“It’s how the lads run with that. It was a massive driver in our dressing room that ‘no one rated us’. If you look from outside in, it’s one-way traffic and they’d be trying to keep the score down, but you love trying to prove people wrong.”

One way or another, O’Gara will be proven right.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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