Jackman says that Perpignan have a dangerous back-line. ©INPHO/James Crombie
Inside knowledge

Bernard Jackman: Munster must be wary of Perpignan backs

The Grenoble defence and collisions coach filled us in on what Robe Penney’s side should expect tomorrow.

MUNSTER FACE TOP 14 outfit Perpignan in Pool 6 of the Heineken Cup tomorrow [KO 12.45], so we’ve been on the phone to France to get the low-down on the Catalans.

Former Leinster and Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman is in his second season with Grenoble, where he works as defence and collisions coach. He was happy to share his knowledge on Perpignan with ahead of the clash in Limerick.

Two faces of USAP

Perpignan lie ninth in the Top 14 at the halfway point of the campaign thanks to their startling inconsistency. Excellent home victories against the likes of Castres, Montpellier and Toulouse have been juxtaposed with away losses to Oyonnax and Brive. Indeed, Marc Delpoux’s men have won just once in six domestic games away from home.

When USAP turn up aggressive and ready to play, they are exciting and incisive. They play with width and dual play-makers Camille Lopez and James Hook spark their attacking thrusts. However, as Jackman points out, those days are balanced out by the less convincing displays.

They’re very capable of running in big scores. From what I’ve seen, they have real, real potential but they’ve been pretty poor on the road. Hook is obviously very good for them and he’s a massive part of the group. They love him there in terms of what he brings off the field as well.

“They’ve got good speed on the wings, but their pack isn’t consistent enough to do anything major. They’ll probably beat Munster in Perpignan but their away form has been very poor. I think it’s a chance for Munster to go for the bonus point this weekend.”

Exciting back-line

imageHook is at the heart of this Perpignan side. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.

Hook is part of a Perpignan back-line that offers a genuine attacking edge when provided with quality possession. Winger Sofiane Guitoune is the leading try-scorer in the Top 14 with eight so far this season, while out-half Lopez produces moments of footballing magic with his array of chips and cross-field kicks.

Lifeimi Mafi, David Marty and Sione Piukala are missing though, meaning the relatively inexperienced pair of Tommaso Benvenuti start in midfield. Furthermore, a calf injury to flying wing Wandile Mjekevu is a big blow. Jackman says USAP still have the firepower to break Munster down, but whether or not they get the ball is the real question.

They are dangerous and they do play with width. They don’t drive every line-out so they can be a hard team to defend against. Sofiane Guitoune, the winger, is very elusive. Camille Lopez is a very nice footballer and Dewaldt Duvenage, the scrum-half on the bench, is quite dangerous.

“They have a decent pack but they just don’t seem to be playing to the sum of their parts. I think to win big games, you need a pack who can provide the ball. I think other teams can starve them of possession. Even though they have a very exciting back-line, they’re not necessarily going to be able to have enough possession to do damage.”

Emotional element

imageDelpoux’s emotional approach can affect his team’s performances. ©INPHO/James Crombie.

Head coach Delpoux has a good reputation in France and has built a close bond with his players. The former Bordeaux boss wears his heart on his sleeve according to Jackman, which can serve as both a strength and a weakness. Meanwhile, the Perpignan appetite for playing away from home remains in doubt, particularly given their record of just four wins on the road in the last three seasons.

The fact that USAP currently lead Pool 6 may mean a change in attitude to this away tie, but Delpoux’s decision to leave first-choice players Sébastian Vahaamahina and Duvenage on the bench suggests otherwise. Jackman says the USAP coach is well-rated in France.

“He’s a good guy. From what I understand, he’s quite an emotional coach; he regularly cries before games and stuff like that. But that can affect his thought process sometimes. The players there like him; he’s a really good bloke.

“I like Perpignan as a team, but they’re just so inconsistent away from home at the moment. They hate coming over to Ireland and England because they think the food is horrendous!”

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