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Munster Squad training in UL yesterday afternoon
Billy Stickland/Inpho
Hungry Munster Seek A Return To Winning Ways
10 October 2009, 10:49 am
By Dermot Keyes, The Munster Express
The lap of honour conducted by Northampton after winning Saturday's cracking Heineken Cup opener against Munster may yet come back to haunt them.
Come January, those post-match celebrations at Franklin's Gardens will be well and truly burned into the souls of many a Munster player and supporter alike.

Pounds of flesh and a lot more besides shall be sought and if previous New Year outings against English opponents in Thomond Park offer any indication, we should be in for one hell of an occasion.

Odd kick-off times aside, it's hard to find fault with the Heineken Cup. After all, just a week into the competition and talk is rife of must-win affairs for both Munster and Leinster.

Unlike its soccer counterpart, every game in the pool stage is meaningful, meaning drama is rarely, if ever, lacking over the course of the opening phase.

Benetton Treviso's sensational win over Perpignan leaves the French champions in the most precarious position of all the tournament's big hitters, with the Catalan outfit knowing that one more slip-up means 'au revoir' to the ERC.

While there's already the inevitable talk about the French clubs' priorities, Perpignan hardly set out with the intent of losing to the Italians, who'd lost 23 of their previous 24 European outings.

Oddly, it is they and not Munster who go into the second round of the Heineken Cup with a win under their belt, with the pressure firmly off the visitors and firmly on the hosts.

In regular circumstances, any meeting between Irish and Italian clubs would barely raise an eyelid, but given last weekend's results, Saturday afternoon's fixture is unusually high on 'juice content'.

If you're only as good as your last game, then Munster know that, despite last Saturday's second half heroics, they must do better.

That it was a stark improvement on the display against Leinster was beyond dispute, so logic suggests that things ought to be cranked up a notch against Treviso.

With another French referee (Jerome Garces) manning the whistle at Thomond Park, one hopes Paul O'Connell doesn't find himself as bemused as he was clearly was during the Northampton game.

But what Munster cannot do is allow the referee to become a central character against Treviso; a well-set scrum, steady lineout and good behaviour around the fringes should see to that.

With the new midfield partnership of Jean de Villiers and Lifeimi Mafi certain to strengthen on the back of last Saturday's outing and subsequent mornings and afternoons on the training paddock, the potential for fireworks is rife.

But talk of bonus points and walkovers won't be entering the equation inside the Munster camp this week. Saturday is all about winning. And since winning is usually the by-product of a good performance, then the tries ought to follow.

That David Wallace, Ronan O'Gara and Jerry Flannery featured so strongly in the final quarter last Saturday despite the small amount of game time they've had this season will have greatly encouraged Tony McGahan.

Yet one imagines that a significant reduction in the penalty count will please the Munster coach every ounce as much as a convincing victory should such a scenario have unfolded by 3pm on Saturday.
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