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David Wallace: Result too tight to call but Munster will deliver best performance yet

The former Munster and Ireland flanker says Toulouse have been ‘on the radar’ ever since they thrashed his province in 1996.

James Coughlan and Conor Murray will need big games for Munster.
James Coughlan and Conor Murray will need big games for Munster.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IT IS GOOD to see James Downey back in the Munster midfield and both Simon Zebo and Keith Earls will have benefited from the intensity of the Leinster game last week. Saying that, the Toulouse back five is amazingly strong and Munster will have their work cut out trying to nullify them.

They can start doing that be depriving them from as much ball as possible. Jealously guarding possession is vital; not giving it back. Loose kicks are not an option. While aggression and work-rate will need to be present, Munster need to get all the basics spot on and be clinical. That comes from clearing out rucks effectively, presenting clean ball at the breakdown and everything in between.

Toulouse are having an ordinary enough season in the Top 14 but they have had a long love affair with this competition. Both sides are steeped in the history of this cup. One factor, however, that Toulouse have not experienced is Thomond Park on a Heineken Cup day. These lads have played in some of the most formidable arenas, at club and Test level, but they may find themselves side-swiped by the ferocity of the welcome they’ll get.

There will be battles all over the park and Munster will look to go after their guests up front. Census Johnston is a potent scrummaging weapon for Toulouse so I expect his loss to be keenly felt. Dave Kilcoyne and Damien Varley are very good together and add BJ Botha in — a man who can handle himself — and Munster will fancy their chances.

Dave Foley Munster second row Dave Foley. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Peter O’Mahony will set that zealous tone for Munster but it is great to see Dave Foley named in the second row with Paul O’Connell. His grit and scrapping tendencies are made for days like today. The bench, and replacement props John Ryan and Alan Cotter, will definitely come in for the closing stages but it should not prove too big an issue. Six or seven years ago and you used to worry if the top lads cried off but the professional game, and academy systems, in Ireland has really produced strong squads.

I played Toulouse twice in my Munster career. We beat them in 2000 when Ronan O’Gara scored that great try. In 2008, for me, beating Toulouse at the Millennium Stadium was the real cherry on top of our second cup win. Ever since they hockeyed us [60-19] in France in 1996 they were on everyone’s radar. They’ve never gone off it. They have been the team everyone wants to play, and beat.

They have always been a progressive, attacking team — one that takes you on up front and cuts loose out the back. It was never comfortable against them.

This side beat Saracens in Wembley earlier in the season so all the talk of poor away form in the league can be put to one side. Toulouse are a completely different prospect to Racing Métro and Perpignan, two sides that have been hammered in Limerick in the past year.

I would never be confident about beating them but I am certain that Munster will go out and deliver their best performance of the season. They are massively up for this and they will play like their lives depended on it. They will need to as only their best will do. 

@wa22y played 197 times for Munster, won 72 Test caps with Ireland and appeared in three Tests with The British and Irish Lions. He runs @MrSimmsCrescent Olde Sweet Shoppe at the Crescent Shopping Centre.

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About the author:

David Wallace  / Former Munster and Ireland flanker.

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