When it comes to facing down challenges, Munster are perhaps the best side in the history of the competition at doing just that. However, what they face on Sunday could be the toughest test yet
Munster thrive on the big challenge and they don t come much bigger than potentially being asked to win back-to-back matches against French opposition on foreign soil to reach the Edinburgh Heineken Cup final on Sunday, 22 May. Anthony Foley s team tackle Biarritz Olympique at Estadio Anoeta on Sunday afternoon in the first Heineken Cup match played in Spain, with the winners facing a trip to the victors of the Stade Francais Paris and Newcastle Falcons match in the semi-finals on the weekend of 22 24 April. If Stade Francais come through then it would be a tough ask to win two games in France to reach the final, but those sort of challenges always bring out the best in the Munster team, said coach Alan Gaffney. I don t think the loss of a potential Grand Slam with those two successive Six Nations defeats by France and Wales will work against us. The Irish players were all delighted to be back in the heart of the Munster set-up and I think those disappointments will act as a catalyst for everyone. The players were keen to get back out on the pitch as quickly as they could after the defeat in Wales and played for us against the Dragons on Friday night. They all want to make up for what has gone wrong in the last few weeks and the Heineken Cup gives them the perfect opportunity. We have got to put any negative thoughts behind us going into this game. Brian Lima coming in is a positive for us and we will look to use him in some way against Biarritz. We have done a lot of homework on Biarritz and the one thing we do know about them is they have an enormously powerful pack. They have a good driving maul and if we concede penalties in our 22 we are going to be put under huge pressure. We saw their game against Toulouse recently when they rolled the Toulouse pack over the line for a try. But it s not just up front that they have quality in their side. Dimitri Yachvili is in tremendous form, they have Julien Peyrelongue back at No 10 and there is plenty of pace in their back line. They have the ability to play us all over the paddock. That s why we must go out there and be bold and be Munster. If we sit back and wait for them to show their hand and play their game we will be swamped. We have got to take the game to Biarritz in whatever form we can manage. Everybody is expecting us to perform well in San Sebastian, but no one is making us favourites. Sometimes the expectations on Munster are too great. Not so long ago the fans were doing cartwheels in the street when Munster qualified for the quarter-finals, but now we get criticised if we don t get a home draw. I thought the criticism we received for not getting two bonus points against Harlequins at Twickenham was unfair. People have to understand that it is a significant achievement, and a very hard one to achieve, in reaching the last eight of the Heineken Cup. Just look at the teams who haven t made it this year London Wasps, Bath, Perpignan and The Ospreys just for starters.