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Ben Brady/INPHO Munster head coach Graham Rowntree.
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'It's a real European giant coming to Thomond' - Munster braced for Toulouse challenge
Graham Rowntree is looking forward to Toulouse visiting Limerick this weekend.

AFTER A DIFFICULT start to the season, it’s been an encouraging few weeks for Munster.

Having recorded an impressive, morale boosting win against South Africa A at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in early November, the province have backed that performance up with successive URC wins against Connacht and Edinburgh.

It’s been a much-welcome upturn in form for Graham Rowntree, who is negotiating his way through his first season as a head coach.

This weekend his squad face their biggest challenge yet under Rowntree as Top 14 leaders Toulouse visit Thomond Park on the opening weekend of the new Champions Cup season. 

Munster head into the competition still finding their feet under their new boss, but in Toulouse, they face one of the early tournament favourites.

“They’re good at everything,” Rowntree says.

Their league position suggests that, good at everything. They’ve threats, great players, trick plays, power game. We’ve got our hands full. It’s a real European giant coming to Thomond.”

The two sides have recent history, of course, Munster losing an epic Champions Cup quarter-final at Aviva Stadium last May on penalties. While that day ended in disappointment for the province, the occasion will live long in the memory for those involved as Munster turned Lansdowne Road into a sea of red.

With over 20,000 tickets now sold for Sunday’s clash in Limerick, Rowntree hopes to experience a similar atmosphere this weekend but insists revenge is not a driving factor for his players. 

“It’s not been spoken about, that game,” Rowntree continued. “It was a special, special afternoon. What we’ve looked at is their current form and it’s undeniable what their threats are and the talent they’ve got in that group.

“So, we’ve analysed them and we’ve prepped it like a normal week by looking at their recent games. We’ve not looked at the Aviva game so far.”

On the back of those three successive wins, it feels like Sunday’s game arrives at a good time for Munster.

What we’ve been doing in training is coming through; intensity, around our attack, but I’ve been pleased with our power game, the maul – both sides of it. There’s a nice blend to our game, a real nice blend to what we’re doing.

“Friday night (against Edinburgh) was impressive in terms of sticking there. We gifted them two soft tries, but we didn’t capitulate, and we grew and were still growing as the game was blown up at the end.

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“We’ve trained hard, I’ve said previously that hard work tends to pay off.

“We train hard and fast with our sessions, to drive the difference in the way we’re playing and the intensity. It’s coming through.

“I was always confident that it would come through, but the lads are getting better. They’re getting more skillful, they’re getting more comfortable with how we’re training and playing and then there’s the consistency of returning internationals and injured players (returning).”

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