James Crombie/INPHO Munster halfbacks Joey Carbery and Craig Casey.
heavy hitters

Munster look to give French giants Toulouse a taste of the old Thomond magic

Graham Rowntree’s side need a big performance if they are to get a result against the high-flying Top 14 leaders in Limerick today.

WHEN GRAHAM ROWNTREE signed on the dotted line to become Munster head coach, days like today would have been at the forefront of his mind.

Europe in Munster. No matter what state the province find themselves in, this is a competition that stirs up something special around Thomond Park.

The 2022/23 Champions Cup season arrives with a bang in Limerick today.

The visitors are Toulouse [KO 3.15pm, RTÉ2/BT Sport 3], a true European heavyweight. The French side have reached the semi-final stages of this competition in each of the last four seasons, going all the way to lifting the trophy in 2021.

They know Munster well. At Aviva Stadium last May, they edged a thrilling quarter-final, going through via the novelty of penalties. It was one of those days where Munster lifted themselves to match the energy of a raucous travelling red army. The result was heartbreak, but the occasion one to savour. 

They’ll need the same crowd energy to spur them on today as they look to record an early-season upset.

After a slow start to the season, Rowntree’s side head into the clash on the back of timely wins against South Africa A, Connacht and Edinburgh, but they know today is a significant step up. Toulouse are flying high in the Top 14, and as Rowntree was quick to highlight this week, they are one of those teams that can hurt you in a variety ways.

Their gifted backline take most of the plaudits but Ugo Mola’s side also bring huge power in the pack and a highly efficient set-piece.

If given the right platform, their flair players can thrive with dry ball. Munster’s defence needs to be disciplined and focused against the likes of Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and rising Italian star, Ange Capuozzo.

romain-ntamack-and-garry-ringrose Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Toulouse's Romain Ntamack. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

But it is the set-piece which could prove decisive. Munster have struggled around the scrum this season and Toulouse’s international front-rowers can do real damage in this department. 

For Munster to win, they need to be accurate, clinical and disciplined. The breakdown battle will be key, and it’s an area where they can trouble Toulouse.

They’ll also need big performances from key men. This needs to be one of those days where Joey Carbery steps up at 10. Tadhg Beirne needs to be disruptive and Peter O’Mahony at his influential best. When those two are purring, Munster can trouble anyone.

New faces are becoming influential too, and the inclusion of Antoine Frish in midfield suggests Munster will look to make use of his playmaking abilities.

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen signs that Munster are beginning to get to grips with the gameplan Rowntree and his assistants, Mike Prendergast, Denis Leamy and Andi Kyriacou are trying to implement. This will be their biggest test yet as a coaching team, and it will be interesting to see if they give their players the same license to play or look to take a more conservative approach against a Toulouse side who can do damage from any area of the park.

Defeat wouldn’t be a killer blow for Munster, with winnable games against Northampton ahead, but a win would be a major boost and the strongest sign yet that the team are growing under their new coaching team.

It should be a fascinating challenge, but these are the days Rowntree signed up for. As a new European chapter begins, he’ll hope some of the old Thomond magic can lift Munster again. 

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (captain), John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Josh Wycherley, Roman Salanoa, Jack O’Donoghue, Alex Kendellen, Paddy Patterson, Jack Crowley, Keith Earls.

TOULOUSE: Thomas Ramos; Ange Capuozzo, Dimitri Delibes, Pita Ahki, Matthis Lebel; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (captain); Rodrigue Neti, Julien Marchand, Dorian Aldegheri; Richie Arnold, Emmanuel Meafou; Anthony Jelonch, Alban Placines, Alexandre Roumat.

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Cyril Baille, Charlie Faumuina, Thibaud Flament, Yannick Youyoutte, Jack Willis, Martin Page Relo, Lucas Tauzin.

Referee: Christophe Ridley [RFU] 

Get instant updates on your province on The42 app. With Laya Healthcare, official health and wellbeing partner to Leinster, Munster and Connacht Rnorwichugby. 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel