The Return To Europe
11th October 2016 By Munster Rugby
See how the sides compare and read commentary from both camps as Munster prepare to open their 2016/17 Champions Cup campaign away to Ronan O’Gara’s Racing 92 this Sunday at 3.15pm (Irish time).
The sides have clashed just twice previously, doing so in the 2012/13 Heineken Cup campaign when both recorded respective home wins. In the first instance Munster looked to have recorded an impressive win at the Stade de France before two late penalties snatched victory from the grasp of the province.
Racing’s now Assistant Coach, Ronan O’Gara, started at 10 for Munster on the day but injury would see him miss the return encounter the following January. Regardless the men in red made amends for their costly errors in Paris and recorded a 29-6 win over Racing, a result that sent them to the 2013 quarter finals.
Fast forward a number of years and the clubs have experienced somewhat contrasting fortunes of late. Last season, Munster, by their standards, endured a poor 15/16 by failing to qualify for the knock out stages of Europe and the PRO12, while Racing on the other hand bagged the much coveted Top 14 title and finished out the European season as Champions Cup runners up to Saracens.
It’s understandable then that this weekend’s hosts enter the game as favourites. That said, history dictates one should never underestimate the men of Munster in Europe, and especially on French soil, a fact Racing Head Coach Laurent Labit – no doubt informed by O’Gara – is well aware of.
Looking ahead to their Champions Cup opener Labit commented, “It’s very tough to start the competition with Munster. We have been watching them since the start of the season but we also have the best spy possible with Ronan O’Gara to know how they function.
“It’s funny because he’s got mixed feeling about meeting Munster. It’s his club of heart, of love. He feels like betraying them.
“Of course, he wants Racing to win but, strangely, he’s not happy facing them, even if he’ll be thrilled to be back at Thomond Park in January.”
O’Gara himself added, “In terms of next weekend, if there's a team coming in under the radar, with a kind of a new-felt belief, it's Munster. Depending on the injury profile we have it could be a long day because they'll have nothing to lose. I'll know exactly the mentality of the players, and the most important ingredient is hunger.”
In terms of this season, it’s been a mixed bag for both sides – Racing strong at home but failing to impress on the road, while Munster’s winning momentum in the PRO12 ground to a halt against their fiercest rivals Leinster on Saturday.
Basic – yet fixable – errors in both defence and attack cost Peter O’Mahony and his teammates dearly at the Aviva Stadium with the Munster captain looking for a marked improvement this weekend.
”We had a lot of opportunities in their (Leinster’s) 22 and coughed away ball which doesn’t help against a side with that kind of quality. We have a big couple of weeks ahead, so we can’t be feeling sorry for ourselves. We have to learn from our mistakes and kick on over the next couple of weeks.
”Racing are a quality side, Top 14 champions, a big physical team with obviously a quite expansive game as well. We will have to have a good look at them. We will review our game and we need to keep building. Some of the young fellas have put in some great performances over the past few weeks, so we have to build on that.”
Racing 92 v Munster, European Champions Cup round 1, Sunday October 16th at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir – ko 3.15pm (Irish time).
This game will be televised on Sky Sports.
Next Home Game:
Munster v Glasgow Warriors, European Champions Cup round 2, Saturday October 22nd at Thomond Park Stadium – ko 1pm.
- Adults €;20
- Juniors €;10
- Students €;10
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Purchased tickets online here, from the Munster Rugby Ticket Offices in Irish Independent Park and Thomond Park or by calling 061 421103.