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Perpignan Showdown

10th January 2003 By Munster Rugby

Perpignan Showdown

Munster travel to France for their Heineken Cup "Pool of Death" Round 5 showdown against Perpignan on Saturday with coach Alan Gaffney admitting "this is a crunch game – a big, big one".

Munster travel to France for their Heineken Cup "Pool of Death" Round 5 showdown against Perpignan on Saturday with coach Alan Gaffney admitting "this is a crunch game – a big, big one".

Munster travel to France for their Heineken Cup "Pool of Death" Round 5 showdown against Perpignan on Saturday with coach Alan Gaffney admitting "this is a crunch game – a big, big one".

Munster have contested two of the last three Heineken Cup finals, losing by a point to Northampton in 2000 and 15-9 to defending champions Leicester Tigers last May, but now find themselves in a potential three-way tie with Perpignan and Gloucester for the top spot in Pool 2 in the scramble for automatic quarter final qualification.

"The game in Perpignan could decide whether or not we qualify for the quarter finals," said Gaffney. "A defeat would not end our hopes, we could still make it through to the last eight, but we would need to score plenty of tries.

"The moment we came off the pitch on Friday night (after beating Ulster 42-10 to qualify for the Celtic League final against Neath) we said that nothing less than a win at Perpignan would be acceptable.

"However, Perpignan have started to score lots of tries and points and any side who can do what they did to Gloucester must have something pretty big going for them."

"I went to Perpignan earlier in the season with Jerry Holland, our team manager, and Stade Aime Giral is a very intimidating place, a tough place to go and win."

"That said, Munster have an excellent Heineken cup record in France and going over there holds no fears for us." "Perpignan are obviously a very strong all-round team and in fly half Manny Edmonds they have an exceptional no 10."

"I coached him for two seasons at New South Wales and he is a very good player. He had two tests for Australia, against Tonga and South Africa, but perhaps was always a bit in the shadow of players like Steve Larkham. Nevertheless, we will have to watch him closely – he has already scored three tries in this season’s Heineken Cup".

"As pleased as we are to be in the Celtic Final, it was achieved at the cost of two more injuries that we really could have done without.

"Lock Paul O’Connell was operated on yesterday (Sunday) for a fractured thumb and will be out for six to eight weeks and wing Anthony Horgan has no chance of playing against Perpignan after coming off with another hamstring injury". All in all it means we now have seven players not available through injury".

Olivier Saisset, The Perpignan coach, added: "we have almost a full squad of players available – our main problem is that we have had no competition since December 21 when we beat Narbonnne 39-0 at home, so we will be at a disadvantage there."

"But we beat Gloucester at home in round 4 so we must continue on that winning run if we are to have a chance of qualification. Munster are likelier to be a tougher proposition than Gloucester because they are a very defensive side and difficult to break down. They also have vast experience of this kind of must-win game."

"We must produce a quick-game – as we have on our last two outings in a sense we are prisoners of good performances – we have produced a couple of good showings and now we must consolidate and build on those."

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