Erasmus hails special Thomond nights before possible European farewell

Outgoing coach says province must improve on last performance to beat Racing 92

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus: “If we play like we played last weekend we won’t get points out of this game.” Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus: “If we play like we played last weekend we won’t get points out of this game.” Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Facing into what could be his final European Champions Cup game at Thomond Park against Racing 92 next Saturday (kick-off 5.30), Rassie Erasmus admits that a repeat of their mistake-riddled performance in last Sunday’s draw in Castres will not be good enough to earn the win Munster need to remain in strong contention for a place in the knockout stages.

A more liberated Racing made 25 off-loads, 10 from Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa, in scoring three first-half tries in their 22-18 win over Leicester, and Erasmus said: “Without a doubt we are in for a tough one.”

“If we play like we played last weekend we won’t get points out of this game. We were naive at times, giving them opportunities where there is nothing on for us to try in certain positions on the field. We just pushed our luck a little bit there.

“If we do that against Racing we won’t get any points out of the game. So we will have to have a massive step up, not just with Nakarawa. Carter will probably be in the mix, [Pat] Lambie really played well. They have two big centres. Their line-out is unbelievable; they contest probably the best in Top 14. That is why they got a convincing victory.”

Really special

As of Tuesday, 19,000 tickets had been sold, and Erasmus said of Euro Saturday nights in their Limerick citadel: “It is special, it is really special. You can describe it many ways. I have always tried to say it in a certain way I feel it is very personal. I’ve never been at a Thomond Park where I feel the fans hated the opposition, where they actually get under their skin.

“There is always that respect, that quiet for the kicker or when they warm up or they run off there is respect. It is intense and it is personal and that’s how they support.

“Sometimes, when you are playing bad but you are having enough effort, the supporters support them; they don’t leave before the final whistle. It is very unique. I have coached a couple of places in my life but it is very privileged and very special.”

His replacement, Johann van Graan, is in Limerick with his family this week and was introduced to all the players on Tuesday, pending his arrival after obtaining a work permit.

Finding his feet

“We’re making sure he meets all the players, and to see how our coaching setup works, how our weeks are planned, and meet all the various other departments, just to observe how we do things. When his work permit is successful he’ll know everyone and not spend the first four or five days when he’s in the job just finding his feet.”

No matter when the changeover is concluded, Erasmus said he would not be working with the Springboks in Dublin when they face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on November 11th.

On the injury front, Erasmus was pessimistic about the availability of hooker Niall Scannell (thumb) especially and Tyler Bleyendaal (neck). Rhys Marshall could make his first European start with Kevin O’Byrne on the bench, and if Bleyendaal is also ruled, Ian Keatley would start at outhalf.

Their South African flanker Chris Cloete, whom Erasmus said was in the mould of a David Pocock or Michael Hooper, also arrives this week, but is more likely to make his debut in the Pro14.

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