MUNSTER CAPTAIN PETER O’Mahony thinks the departure of Rassie Erasmus is having very little immediate impact on his side as they seek a first Champions Cup win of the season when Racing 92 visit Thomond Park on Saturday.
Erasmus and his assistant Jacques Nienaber will leave the province midway through their Pool 5 campaign, but according to O’Mahony, such is their professionalism, the players were able to continue to plan and play as if they were staying on.
New head coach Johann van Grann met the Munster squad earlier this week, and O’Mahony says he will have a more detailed meeting with him before his departure, but he expects the leadership group will be asked to play a significant role to ensure the handover of power is slick and seamless.
“This is speaking very highly of Jacques and Rassie — it didn’t affect us,” said O’Mahony.
“The lads carried on as if they were staying. If you came in over the last six weeks or so, compared to this time last year, meetings were the exact same. The guys were driving it, there was no difference.
“There was a lot of talk about it and that’s something you can’t really get away from but we had our heads down here working away.
“I met Johann briefly, said hello, and hopefully will grab a coffee with him over the next few days.
“I think myself and 10 of the other senior guys, probably a little more now, are going to be a very important link. We’re not going to be changing the wheel, Johann is going to come in and I think his experience speaks for itself.
“I’m certainly looking forward to being coached by him and getting to know him. And I suppose myself and the leadership group are going to be a very important bridge.
“We’ll be the drivers of it same as we are with the current lads as well. It’s always a very important relationship between myself, him and the leadership.”
Munster’s draw last weekend in Castres was a bit of a mixed result. Two points from an away game in France is a decent start, but with further tests away to Leicester Tigers and Saturday’s opponent Racing 92, it could yet be seen as a bit of a slip up.
Winning your home games in this competition is non-negotiable, but O’Mahony knows the challenge that faces his side against the 2016 French champions.
“Obviously from my point of view, they are quality, from 1 to 23 no matter who comes over. From a forwards point of view, I think they mauled every one of their lineouts bar one at the weekend so obviously it is going to be a big physical encounter, as it always is with the big French packs.
“We have played a huge amount against Leone Nakarawa between Glasgow and Racing and it doesn’t get any easier certainly. He is sure to be mentioned a couple of times during the week.
“I think he had ten offloads at the week-end. I don’t think we can go around saying we are going to stop him offloading, rather than defend the channels either side of him I suppose.
“But of course they also have the quality out in the backs as well with finishers like Teddy Thomas, these kinds of operators are world-class so we’re going to have to be very good. And of course it all starts with the backs.
“It’s almost cup rugby all of the time now, the teams you’re coming up against are big names after big names and individuals with big names after big names. It’s certainly important for us to win, you are not going to win or lose a competition this weekend but it’s paramount for us to give a good performance.”
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