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Blazing squad: Doug Howlett happy to lead Munster into Stade de France hot-house

The newly-appointed captain believes Paris is the perfect place for a winning start to their Heineken Cup campaign.

Doug Howlett has taken over the Munster captaincy from Paul O'Connell.
Doug Howlett has taken over the Munster captaincy from Paul O'Connell.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

THE FIXTURE LIST has not been kind to Munster in the past month.

The Reds have played Pro12 leaders Ulster, league champions Ospreys and European champions Leinster away in the past four weeks, with the sole home game, and win, against Newport Gwent Dragons.

Up next for Munster captain Doug Howlett and his side, a Saturday afternoon date with Racing Metro at the 81,000-seater Stade de France in Paris.

Barring an unseasonal bout of ground-frost, Howlett and his teammates will do battle with a team eager to shake off middling league form and get off to a perfect European start.

Howlett knows the feeling and insists Munster will not be daunted by the boisterous home support.

“For us,” he told TheScore.ie, ”once we take to the field it’s the same sized rugby field as anywhere else that we play. That’s the approach we’ll take into the match.”

“It’s a great tournament and we’ve got a great start to it,” added the 62-times capped All Black.

Plenty to worry about

Despite the summer retirement of influential French lock Lionel Nallet, Racing have enough class and experience in their squad to trouble Munster.

Howlett commented, “Racing obviously have a fantastic squad and a lot of depth to their team.” He added:

They’ll be guns blazing for the first game of the Heineken Cup against us.

“From what I’ve seen, they’ve mixed and matched their squad. We’ll have to have a good look at the tapes to see what they have to offer.”

The tapes will only include fleeting images of newly signed out-half Olly Barkley, who made his Racing debut at the weekend, but will feature familiar faces such as Dimitri Szarzewski, Fabrice Estebanez, Italy’s Andrea Lo Cicero and Argentinean out-half Juan Martín Hernández.”

Howlett dismisses the notion that Munster, with a squad in transition and a new coach, Rob Penney, at the helm, will be off the hook when it comes to public expectations of a trophy charge.

“I guess the expectations come from within the group,” he said. “We hold this competition in high esteem and we want to do well in it.”

They could think of better places but, for Munster’s developing squad, it’s a start.

Read: Munster approaching full-strength for Racing Metro clash

Read: Brutal truth: Trophies the target for ambitious Anscombe

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Patrick McCarry

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