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'We've got to be smart, we've got to be physical and we've got to win big moments'

A big European occasion awaits Munster at Thomond Park this afternoon, and Johann van Graan is hoping home advantage will have a big part to play.

Munster will be hoping for another famous European result this afternoon.
Munster will be hoping for another famous European result this afternoon.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

FIVE EUROPEAN CROWNS between them, Munster and Toulon lock horns at Thomond Park this afternoon in a heavyweight quarter-final clash [KO 3.15pm, Sky Sports] with all the ingredients to be a classic.

Munster are under no illusions of the size of the task ahead of them, particularly because Johann van Graan has had to deal with something of an injury crisis in the build-up, although the return to fitness of Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway and Rory Scannell is a major boost.

A big European occasion awaits and home advantage at their Thomond citadel cannot be underestimated, even when you weigh it up against Toulon’s star-studded side and their impressive 49-0 rout of Clermont last week.

Granted they still possess firepower across the board with an array of internationals providing quality and experience, but this Toulon side is not as dangerous as it once was and questions hang over their ability to deal with a red-hot atmosphere.

Munster, like they did against Leicester and Castres in the pool stages, will look to use that advantage to the maximum, with Van Graan reiterating the need for his side to seize the game’s big moments again.

“Maybe the best way I can say it is, the opportunity of a lifetime lasts as long as the lifetime of the opportunity,” he said earlier in the week. “We’ve got 80 minutes of rugby, at the end of the day it’s a rugby game at home. Even the small crowd that came out on Saturday at Thomond Park, they made a lot of noise.

“That’s why you work for home-ground advantage. Four teams worked exceptionally hard to get home quarter-finals and we’re one of them. You’ve earned it but at the end of the day it’s an all-new competition now. It’s a once-off, 80 minutes and we’ll use the home crowd but we’ve got to play well as well.

“We’ve got to be smart, we’ve got to execute, we’ve got to be physical and we’ve got to win big moments.

Johann van Graan Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Hopefully when that ball goes up into the air one or two moments will go our way and hopefully we can get some momentum and play some good rugby.”

The Thomond roar is a powerful weapon. Munster have won 70 of their previous 75 home fixtures in the European Cup, with Clermont the only French club to come away with a win back in 2015/16, while Toulon have now lost five of their last six away games in the competition.

Fabien Galthié’s side cannot, however, be taken for granted and Munster, without the likes of Tyler Bleyendaal, Chris Cloete, Chris Farrell, Keith Earls and Tommy O’Donnell will need to be at their very best if they are to advance to the last four.

“We are going to attack in a very specific way at the weekend just because of the threats we are facing,” Van Graan added.

“It’s all about this weekend and we’ve decided on a course for this weekend without differing too much from what we normally do.

“Hopefully we can score some tries but it will be very tight, it might be wet, it might be a high-scoring game. You can never predict these things. It’s about adapting to this game on Saturday.”


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15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Conway
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Rory Scannell
11. Alex Wootton
10. Ian Keatley
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rhys Marshall
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Jack O’Donoghue
8. CJ Stander


16. Niall Scannell
17. James Cronin
18. John Ryan
19. Gerbrandt Grobler
20. Robin Copeland
21. James Hart
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Darren Sweetnam


15. Chris Ashton
14. Josua Tuisova
13. Mathieu Bastareaud
12. Ma’a Nonu
11. Semi Radradra
10. Francois Trinh-Duc
9. Eric Escande

1. Florian Fresia
2. Guilhem Guirado
3. Marcel Van Der Merwe
4. Juandre Kruger
5. Dave Attwood
6. Raphael Lakafia
7. Facundo Isa
8. Duane Vermeulen


16. Anthony Etrillard
17. Xavier Chiocci
18. Emerick Setiano
19. Romain Taofifenua
20. Anthony Belleau
21. Malakai Fekitoa
22. Alby Mathewson
23. Samu Manoa

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