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'I've never played there' - Dusautoir excited about Thomond Park trip

Rassie Erasmus’ men will welcome Top 14 side Toulouse to Limerick in April.

Murray Kinsella reports from Stade Ernest Wallon

HE’S 35 NOW, but Thierry Dusautoir continues to battle away for Toulouse and he is still looking forward to new rugby experiences.

The 80-times capped former France captain has done a hell of a lot in his magnificent career. A World Cup final les Bleus very nearly won, Six Nations titles, World Rugby Player of the Year in 2011, Top 14 trophies, a Heineken Cup.

But he’s never played in Thomond Park.

Thierry Dusautoir and Jack Carty Dusautoir lines up Connacht's Jack Carty yesterday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Dusautoir should finally get the opportunity in April, as Toulouse travel to the famous Limerick venue for their Champions Cup quarter-final. It will be the Top 14 club’s first knockout fixture since their visit to Thomond Park in 2014, when the Irish province convincingly beat them.

Dusautoir missed that game three years ago, but he’s now going to work hard to make sure he’s fit for the 2017 version.

“I hope I will be there because it’s a great stadium with a great atmosphere,” said Dusautoir after his side’s 19-10 victory over Connacht yesterday. “I’ve never played there, so for me it would be really nice to experience that.

I hope the guys will help me to make it a good memory, but it’s going to be really, really hard for us and will need a big effort from Toulouse.”

Munster advanced into the quarter-finals as second seeds after five wins from their six pool games, and home advantage will only add to their confidence for April’s meeting with Toulouse.

Rassie Erasmus must hope that the likes of Conor Murray, CJ Stander and Simon Zebo will return from the Six Nations unscathed, and there is lots of time for things to change at Munster.

Right now, however, they are one of the most impressive teams in Europe.

“They really managed their pool well,” said Dusautoir of Munster. “I know they had very difficult moments with the loss of Anthony Foley but it’s like that has made them stronger.

Paul O'Connell celebrates with Simon Zebo Munster were commanding winners against Toulouse in 2014. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“I think all the people from Cork and Limerick are behind them, as always, but it’s even more and more this year. We know that it’s going to be hard. [On Saturday,] they had a great game against Racing. We’re going to take our chance.

“It’s a quarter-final and we can hope for something nice for Stade Toulousain.”

The French side played some excellent rugby early on in yesterday’s win against Pat Lam’s Connacht, scoring early tries through Gaël Fickou and Arthur Bonneval.

With their forwards carrying powerfully over the gainline and signs of their traditional creativity coming to the fore, it looked ominous for Connacht. But in the end, Lam’s side will reflect on the game as a major missed opportunity.

Toulouse faded in the second half, began to look panicked and were clinging on by the end of the contest. Munster will certainly have noted the poor closing quarter from Toulouse and Dusautoir admitted it has been a big issue for his team.

“I think it’s our weakness this year,” said the Toulouse captain. “It was the same problem last weekend against Wasps. Three months ago against Connacht too. We really have to improve in this sector, because if not it will be really hard for us at the end of the season.

“But it’s true that we’re making good starts. We had 50 or 60 good minutes, but after that maybe it was a lack of concentration. I don’t know, but it is a big problem for us.”

Yoann Huget celebrates at the final whistle 22/1//2017 Toulouse celebrate their win over Connacht. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It’s certainly something for Fabien Pelous and Ugo Mola to work on with their squad in the coming weeks, but last night Dusautoir and his team were keen to enjoy the glow of victory.

“We’re really happy, it’s a great win,” said the blindside flanker. “We’re just happy to play the quarter-final against Munster.

“It’s been a long time for us since we played in the quarter-final. The last time was in Munster. That’s a bad memory but we will try to do better next time.”

- This article was updated at 18.27 to correct ‘Munster’ to ‘Connacht’ in the caption on the third photo.

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Murray Kinsella

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