Casey Laulala proving his worth to Munster
Laulala admits to lacking confidence in first year with the province
The Heineken Cup dipped into that history and created a new vibrancy, making these weeks special in the province.
“The support we get here is just amazing. People get behind it and also the noise when you run out and for the rest of the game – bar when there’s a kick for goal – you feel the electricity in the air when it comes to the Heineken Cup. We will need all of that on Saturday, because it’s a must win game for us.”
Stem the flood
Laulala had three good years in Cardiff, making friends for life, but he finds it sad that the Heineken Cup and their regions has nothing like the same cachet in Wales, and that the Welsh RFU cannot stem the flood of best players abroad.
“They’re still having that battle, like you always hear with the Blues which of the Lions boys might be leaving. It’s really, really sad.
“They have to fix it some time. The Irish Union have managed to keep their players in the country and I think that has really helped the growth of the game here, and the Welsh could really learn from that. But then the French teams have such big budgets it’s hard not to consider options like that. You only have a career of ten or so years, touch wood, with your body in good nick year-in, year-out.”
Laulala is still haunted by the near miss in last season’s 16-10 Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Clermont, not least when his deftly weighted grubber in the 70th minute just eluded the covering Napolioni Nalaga, Felix Jones and then both the diving Lee Byrne and Laulala himself. For that to be a one-off shot at glory would almost be a waste.
Howlett has told Laulala that winning the Heineken Cup was as special as anything he achieved in an All Blacks jersey, so he’d rather like to experience the feeling himself. “Especially as the final is in Cardiff this year. That’s a long, long way away, but we got a taste of it last year down in Montpellier and definitely in the Stoop. What a feeling that was. That was as good as anything, including my first Test for the All Blacks.
“I can definitely see where Dougie is coming from, especially when you see pictures of the sea of red in those finals. But we’ll keep dreaming, and do what we can do to take us there.”