Red Army drinking at the last-chance saloon once again
Demoralised and drained from last week’s anticlimax, and seven points adrift of the top six play-off places domestically in ninth place, Racing appear more concerned with their trek to Bordeaux/Begles next Friday.
On the corresponding weekend on a freezing Friday night in Paris, Leinster achieved a bonus point win against a Racing side whose squad depth and fitness levels looked singularly unimpressive.
Talent in ranks
Under the captaincy of Jacques Cronje there is talent in their ranks, naturally, and they have their main ball carrier Maxi Matedigo on the bench. Given any encouragement they could conceivably swing from the hip. But if Munster establish an early stranglehold, then that could quickly disabuse Racing of any serious interest. Munster’s scrum remains their most potent weapon, which is particularly important against a French side, and if they play to these strengths (why didn’t they take a scrum with the last play of the first-half a week ago?), get David Kilcoyne, James Coughlan, Peter O’Mahony and James Coughlan rumbling close-in, perhaps use James Downey even more than last week and don’t start going wide too early, too deep or too often, then a four-try win is within their compass.
In a side looking short of confidence and leadership, were O’Gara and Paul O’Connell there you’d have little doubt about Munster’s progress. Facing into their first Heineken Cup encounter for 14 campaigns and 105 ties without either of their totems adds to the unease. Without them, this has become even more of a landmark game, but all the more so were they to progress, and unlike a week ago, they will have utter clarity in what will be required of them. That should unclutter the mind.
MUNSTER: F Jones; D Howlett (capt), K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, D Varley, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan. Replacements: M Sherry, W Du Preez, J Ryan, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, C Laulala.
RACING METRO 92: G Germain; J Jane, G Bousses, A Dumoulin, S Bobo; O Barkley, M Belie; J Brugnaut, B Noirot, B Salemane Sa; K Ghezal, F Metz; A Battut, B Le Roux, J Cronje (capt). Replacements: Thomas Bianchin, Andrea Lo Cicero, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Jone Qovu Nailiko, Benjamin Fall, Santiago Dellape, Sebastien Descons, Sakiusa Matadigo.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).
Forecast: Munster to do what they have to do.