Munster trophy hopes rest on Pro14 as Racing build towards Leinster

Johann van Graan’s men get back to training in Limerick today.

WHILE THE DEJECTION after Bordeaux is likely to linger on in Munster for some time yet, Johann van Graan’s squad must rouse themselves as they return to work at their high performance centre in Limerick today.

Many of the elements of their performance in Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Racing 92 on Sunday were some distance from being ‘high performance,’ so every moment in their training base in the coming weeks must be put to good use if they are to end the season with a trophy.

CJ Stander dejected after the game Munster's CJ Stander at the final whistle. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

This weekend’s home clash with Ulster at Thomond Park won’t change the Guinness Pro14 picture for Munster – they will have a home quarter-final game on 4/5 May regardless of the result – but the opportunity to take out their anger on the pitch should be welcome.

It seems likely that van Graan will make changes to his team following the European disappointment, which came hot on the heels of a two-week tour to South Africa, though many of his players will be desperate to get back into action as soon as possible.

A year on from crashing out at the semi-final stage against Saracens at the Aviva Stadium, Munster’s efforts in the final four were poor again.

“To come away with a defeat like that again brings back haunted memories of Dublin this time last year,” said back row Jack O’Donoghue on Sunday after the 27-22 loss.

“It’s tough to take, it’s demoralising but we can’t think about that now. We’ve to go for the Pro14. We look forward to a home quarter-final.”

While van Graan will be trying to lift the mood in his squad as they regather in Limerick today, the review will be as frank as ever as Munster attempt to learn from their shortcomings at Stade Chaban Delmas.

“It was tough, the heat coming down, the pressure, and then their physicality from the off,” said O’Donoghue.

“But look, we fought back and the scoreline looked that bit better. I suppose we should have come away with a few extra points just at the end of the first half. It could have been a completely different game.

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Jack O'Donoghue tackled by Yannick Nyanga O'Donoghue carries against Racing. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“You can’t be giving a class side like Racing that many points lead.”

As for Sunday’s victors, they also have important weeks ahead domestically while they also build towards the Champions Cup final.

Though Racing will bring confidence with them as they return to Top 14 action with tie against Bordeaux and Agen, they will need more big performances to jump from third position into the top two before the play-offs.

On the other side of those crucial league fixtures is the European decider against Leo Cullen’s impressive Leinster.

“We’ve got to approach it differently again, defensively,” said Racing assistant coach Chris Masoe following the win over Munster.

“You can see Leinster have been playing well. I’ve played against that team and it’s all about their momentum and we’re going to have to work hard to stop their momentum and make sure it goes in our favour.

“I’m sure they’ll be everyone’s pick as the favourites. It’s good to be underdogs but we’ve got to a lot of analysis to do in the next three weeks and we’ve got the Top 14, back down here again next week [to play Bordeaux], but it’s a good opportunity for us.

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