'You have a fear of losing in Thomond Park' - Munster primed for Sarries visit
Peter O’Mahony says the English club are ‘the standard setters’ of the Heineken Champions Cup.

WE STILL DON’T know for sure what kind of Saracens team is going to turn up at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.

Some reports suggest that the likes of Owen Farrell, the Vunipola brothers, and Maro Itoje – all of whom played in the World Cup final just under five weeks ago – will be absent as boss Mark McCall manages their already heavily-accumulated minutes.

Others tell us that the big guns will be boarding the flight to Ireland for Saturday’s clash in Thomond Park as Sarries bid to defend their Heineken Champions Cup title.

johann-van-graan-with-peter-omahony Bryan Keane / INPHO O'Mahony with Munster boss Johann van Graan at training this week. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Munster, naturally, would prefer the former scenario as they look to get back to winning ways on home soil following their draw with Racing 92 in Limerick two weekends ago. 

Having already missed out on the chance to win one of their crucial home games, the southern province know they simply cannot afford to come up short this weekend. Defeat would leave them facing down the barrel of a pool-stage exit.

“We’ve been here before,” says captain Peter O’Mahony. “As soon as you drop points, it’s backs-against-the-wall stuff a little bit.

“That’s how important your home games are and it’s cup rugby from early in the season. They’re games you need to be picking up points in for both sides.

“It has to bring out the best in teams because you have a huge amount of fear. You have a fear of losing in Thomond Park, for one, and the bigger scheme of things is obviously Europe.

“We love playing in this competition and we love competing in it so it’s a huge drive for us to be in it but it’s a huge factor to be out of it. So that’s a huge drive.”

O’Mahony knows the aforementioned Sarries stars rather well, having played against them all several times as well as captaining some of them – and others like Jamie George and George Kruis – in the first Test on the 2017 Lions tour.

peter-omahony-dejected-after-the-game Dan Sheridan / INPHO O'Mahony and Munster lost to Sarries in last season's semi-finals. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

He understands, therefore, what awaits Munster if McCall names his strongest team at midday tomorrow.

“I was lucky enough to work with some of them in the pack,” says O’Mahony. “Incredible leaders, lineout operators, standard drivers. Same with the backs.

“Obviously guys like Owen are world trendsetters with regards to rugby. I was very lucky to work with guys like that and I learned a huge amount from working with guys like that.

“It gives you an insight but also gives you a true realisation of how good these guys are.

“They’re incredibly professional and the standard setters of this competition. They’re going to be as professional and, as they always turn out, we’re expecting an immaculate performance at the weekend.”

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