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Billy Stickland
Only One Coming Out Of Pool One
6 June 2011, 3:41 pm
By Pat Geraghty
Scarlets,the side that ushered them out at the quarter final stage in 2007, this season's beaten finalists Northampton Saints and Castres Olympique, are the sides that Munster must face in their quest to reach the knock out stages of next season's Heineken Cup.
And in terms of French opponents, while there may be some relief at having avoided the likes of Clermont Auvergne or Racing Metro, Munster's Heineken Cup history with Castres extends to 10 games and in Anthony Foley's words those encounters have always been 'feisty affairs'.

"We're up against sides we know well." he says. " Northampton Saints, beaten finalists this year, had them in our group last season and then again in the quarter final, a final scoreline that day that didn't reflect the closeness of the game. Then Scarlets, we play them twice a season in the League, never an easy touch. They've a good European pedigree and of course Castres have been around a long time."

Foley does believe that how the fixtures fall and how players come out of the World Cup will have an influence. "Yeh, the competition kicks off shortly after the World Cup final and how lads come through that will obviously have a bearing. Like when we played Northampton in the first round, Paul (O'Connell) and Jerry (Flannery) were just in their second game back and that was significant I think."

"So there's loads of factors to be considered not least that we've landed ourselves in a very interesting group that will likely only provide one qualifier."

That an opinion shared by Scarlets coach Nigel Davies. "The key thing to getting out of this group is winning at home, we realised that last season and we just slipped up against Leicester. I don't think any of the teams in the Pool will be happy, but we will all think we are good enough to beat each other.

"One thing is for sure, there won't be two teams qualifying out of this Pool, I firmly believe the talent we have developed is good enough to compete at this level, but the players have to believe in themselves.

"We know all about Munster and Northampton Saints obviously reached the final last season. And we know from years of travelling to France that going to Castres will be very difficult. It is going to be very challenging for us, but I think we are going to improve from last season."

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