EURO SEASON SO FAR:
Getting the job done, just. Sneaked past Toulon 20-19 in their controversial quarterfinal win although nobody could argue over the quality of Andrew Conway’s match
winner which was a try for the ages. Munster had called on all their experience in a tricky pool campaign. Castres were on a ‘good day’ when hosting
Munster and the Irish side were content with a 17-17 draw and a week later they eased past Racing 14-7. Against Tigers in the back-to-back December games they finally hit their straps, but a defeat away to Racing meant Munster still had work to do in the final game against Castres, when they won in style.
This, incredibly, will be Munster’s thirteenth semi-final since their first in 2000. No team in Europe has more experience at this stage of the competition, they know all the pitfalls. After winning two of their first three semi-finals away to French teams – Toulouse in Bordeaux in 2000, Castres in Beziers in 2002 – Munster have lost their last four on French soil so are under no illusion as to how difficult it proves on the road. At home their 37-32 semi-final defeat by Wasps at Lansdowne Road in 2004 is frequently referred to as the greatest Heineken Cup tie ever, while there were two titanic semifinals against Leinster in the mid-noughties which finished with both sides recording one victory. STARMEN: A team in the true sense but there are three individuals who run the show at Munster. Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander in the back row, with the former also their key lineout man, while Conor Murray is the essential link at scrumhalf. Plenty of X-factor from Andrew Conway and Simon Zebo. COACH’S CORNER: Munster, knowing it all begins up front, looked to South Africa again when Rassie Erasmus left, bringing in former South Africa forwards coach Johan van Graan. The essential Munster ingredient is provided by backs coach Felix Jones and forwards coach Jerry Flannery.
Essential link: Conor Murray