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Billy Stickland/INPHO Toulouse centre Pita Ahki.
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'A sea of red' - Toulouse expecting raucous atmosphere in Thomond Park
Pita Ahki says Munster will be out for revenge after last season’s shoot-out defeat.

TOULOUSE CENTRE PITA Ahki is expecting another closely-fought battle with Munster in the Champions Cup this Sunday, just seven months after it took a penalty shoot-out to separate the sides in last season’s quarter-finals.

That clash at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin was played in front of a raucous crowd that created an atmosphere Ahki won’t forget.

“I didn’t expect that many people to turn up because it’s obviously in Dublin,” said Ahki.

“It was a sea of red, it was amazing.

“You could just hear the crowd throughout the whole game singing songs. My wife was in the stands for both the quarter-final and semi-final [against Leinster at the same venue a week later] and she said that the atmosphere in the quarter-final was a lot more energetic with the songs and stuff like that.

“I definitely could feel what the Munster team could feel.”

Ahki was nervous when the game went to penalties, not realising that he wouldn’t have to be called on under the new shoot-out rules that mean both teams had to designate three kickers each.

There won’t be the same drama in this weekend’s pool opener in Limerick but Ahki and his team-mates are expecting another ferocious battle in front of a passionate Munster crowd.

“In Limerick, it will be a different beast heading there with a full crowd behind them because Munster in Munster is tough,” he said.

“I’ve played Munster three times now and every game is hard, as you saw last season in the quarters. It went down to the wire, down to penalty kicks. I think it will be a bit of the same.

pita-ahki-celebrates-after-the-game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ahki during last season's shoot-out. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Munster will want to get one up on us after last season.

“They take this competition really seriously and they will be preparing really well.”

Ahki was in midfield for Toulouse’s most recent visit to Thomond Park, a 40-33 win in the Round of 16 back in April 2021 on the French club’s way to the Champions Cup title.

Toulouse are on a mission to climb back to the top of the pile in Europe and win their sixth title this season.

“When we lost last season in the semis, it hurt,” said Ahki. “Leinster is Leinster, they’re a big European side, have a lot of internationals, and they know how to play finals footy.

“Toulouse take this competition seriously, the management take it seriously, and we want to put our best foot forward.”

They come into this weekend’s clash sitting first in the Top 14 and with their key French internationals back on duty, including Antoine Dupont after his successful appeal of a suspension.

“We started off quite well,” said Ahki of Toulouse’s season so far.

“Obviously, with the French internationals gone and Ange Capuozzo with Italy, it’s quite tough trying to get the new combinations together and all the young boys coming up to get on the same level.

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connachts-pita-ahki-612018 Billy Stickland / INPHO Ahki during his time with Connacht. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“I guess that’s the same with any other team that has a lot of internationals.

“We’re looking forward to this block of games and then when the Six Nations comes around, we have to pick it up.”

Ahki previously had a stint with Connacht 2017/18 season and remains in touch with some of his former team-mates. He talks to Ultan Dillane in La Rochelle, keeps in contact with Niyi Adeolokun, and plays Fortnite online with Bundee Aki.

“I’m in the middle of trying to organise, not a boys’ trip, but to go to Amsterdam to see Chris Brown,” said Ahki.

“Bundee and Niyi would be keen, I have hit them up. I have not seen Chris Brown live.”

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