Stade Francais offer a chance of redemption for Munster

Anthony Foley says a win would give confidence back to his under-pressure players

As dead rubbers go, Munster are desperately looking for some life in their European Champions Cup campaign. Saturday's return meeting with the French champions Stade Francais offers a chance for redemption of sorts, and is one that Anthony Foley

wants his team to take.

“A win this weekend would give a lot of confidence to the players, give a lot of belief back into the group, to the people around the group, might take a bit of pressure off our family and friends, the stick that is being given out because, being honest with you as I said before, it is a cocoon at times.”

“My mother and father probably feel it and see it and my kids probably see it and feel it. My wife will feel it and see it rather than me. We gotta play for the fact that they might get a bit of a respite for a week until maybe we lose again. It is important for our point of view that we do that.”


“It is important the boys are supported,” he added. “It is easy to support a side on the crest of a wave, I think sometimes this is the moment we see what our supporters are about and from my experience with them these are the times where they have stood up and lifted the team.”

Recalling how the Red Army sought to lift the team after the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham in 2000, Foley said: “I think we were at the bottom of a barrel and we were lifted and got a bit of momentum then going forward. I just think it is important that now we see our true supporters and the people who will stand by us.”

Video nasty

On foot of the video nasty of last Saturday’s defeat, Foley said: “I think Sunday and Monday are horrible days when you lose. They’re horrible days, because people say, ‘Are you paranoid?’ Well, you’re only paranoid when they’re not out to get ya.”

“We believe we have the tools and the equipment to get this thing going forward. I’d love to have a small bit of luck, just a little bit, and that would help us a small bit. We get one or two more players back on the pitch, we get the ability to score; I think that’ll help us put a bit of pressure on the opposition. If we can change that, I’d feel a hell of a lot more positive.”

With all that in mind, although Foley hailed Ian Keatley’s line-kicking and game management in the scoreless first half hour in Paris, Foley hinted that Rory Scannell may switch from inside centre to outhalf.

Tyler Bleyendaal is again not an option, as his recurring quadriceps problem sidelined him from training yesterday. “It is a frustrating for all of us now at the moment. It is a frustration for the lad and we are going to get to the bottom of this.”

Furthermore, their highly regarded 18-year-old academy outhalf Bill Johnston is sidelined indefinitely after dislocating his shoulder for the Irish Under-20s against a Munster Development XV last weekend. Against that Johnny Holland scored ten points on his return for Cork Con in the Ulster Bank League.

“He is back to relatively full fitness, but he is not 100% there yet. You have that and the ability of Rory (Scannell) to play ‘10’ as well.”

Furthermore, pending the outcome of a scan on his knee injury which forced his early withdrawal against Stade, BJ Botha has been ruled out of Saturday's game. Andrew Conway is also a major doubt, after suffering "a massive impact on his hip" when landing heavily again after claiming a high ball, while Tommy O'Donnell "is on track in terms of his HIA (Head Injury Assessment)" and Foley was hopeful Donnacha Ryan would return to training on tomorrow.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times