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Munster must now muster something special on the road in Europe

Johann van Graan’s men are away to Saracens and Racing 92 in the next two rounds.

THERE ARE MANY magical Munster memories on the road in Europe and now Johann van Graan’s men need to produce something similar to fight their way out of Pool 4 of the Heineken Champions Cup.

Saracens managed to eke out a losing bonus point at Thomond Park on Saturday after leaving their front-line stars at home, keeping them in the hunt for a quarter-final place, while Racing 92 lead the pool after a bonus-point win away to the Ospreys.

chris-farrell-shakes-hands-with-mike-haley-after-the-game JJ Hanrahan, Chris Farrell and Mike Haley after their 10-3 win over Saracens. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Munster should be able to bank on a five-point win at home to the Welsh region in the final round of pool fixtures, but it now seems likely that they need to do something big on the road against Saracens next weekend or Racing on 12 January.

Winning in either Allianz Park on Saturday or at the Paris La Défense Arena in five weekends’ time would be very impressive, but Munster know they probably need something special.

“It certainly looks that way,” said van Graan on Saturday after his side’s 10-3 win over Saracens in Limerick. “I think if you want to get a home quarter-final and win your group, as it stands, you probably need to win at least two away.

“So, we have done one away [beating the Ospreys], obviously it would be brilliant if we can win both away but it certainly looks like one of the two away.

“Racing still have to go to Saracens in round six which will be another massive game so there’s no let-up in this group. But we knew as soon as the fixtures came out that, home and away, it was going to be tough in this group and I think there are three teams fighting for one, possibly two, spots and I’m not aware how all the other teams went today but we will have a look at it tomorrow morning and then start again.

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“I think that’s the beauty of European rugby, it changes week by week and hopefully this competition will remain intact in terms of how special it is in round six – that everybody has got a chance and you have to perform then.

“But before we get to that, big challenge in round four.”

peter-omahony Conditions were tough at Thomond Park on Saturday. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Indeed it is, with Mark McCall set to recall star names like Owen Farrell, the Vunipola brothers, and Jamie George for this weekend’s clash in London as Saracens look for a strong win that keeps their quarter-final prospects alive and kicking.

Saracens can be truly lethal on their synthetic surface at Allianz Park, meaning Munster will need to hit a peak.

“You have to play well, ” said van Graan. “I don’t know what the weather will be but we’ve learned in Cork [at Musgrave Park] that the 4G pitch is a lot different to grass.

“You know, they’ve got some very big men in their squad. Just before the game I walked alongside Will [Skelton] and just saw how big he is.

“So you just need to stop momentum on that pitch and the good thing is that we are getting pretty good momentum as well and obviously you saw their kicking game tonight is pretty suffocating and from our point of view you don’t get anything for free across there so we will have to play pretty well to get some points.”

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Murray Kinsella

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