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PREVIEW: Racing 92 v Munster

4th January 2017 By Munster Rugby

See how the sides compare and read commentary from both camps as Munster resume their 2016/17 Champions Cup campaign away to French Top 14 champions Racing 92 this Saturday at 3.45pm (Irish time).

The sides have clashed just twice previously, doing so in the 2012/13 Heineken Cup campaign when both earned home wins. In the first instance Munster looked to have recorded an impressive win at the Stade de France before two late penalties snatched another famous win on French soil from the grasp of the Munstermen.

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 experienced somewhat contrasting fortunes last season. Munster by their standards endured a poor 2015/16 by failing to qualify for the knock out stages of Europe and the PRO12, while Racing on the other hand bagged the much coveted French Top 14 title and finished out the European season as Champions Cup runners up to Saracens.

This year, the tide has turned somewhat in favour of Munster who currently top the Guinness PRO12, boast the best defence in both the Championship and Europe, and have two bonus points wins to their name in Pool 1 – earmarked the ‘pool of death’ when the draw was made last June.

Racing by contrast have yet to register a point on the Pool 1 table after suffering losses to Leicester Tigers and Glasgow Warriors (home and away), the latter their first and only home defeat this season. However, there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal and Racing will look to make serious European reparations this weekend. A mid-placed 8th on the Top 14 table is hardly reflective of the Parisians’ near perfect home record so far this season, one that has seen the likes of Castres, Toulouse and the mighty Toulon all leave the Stade Yves-du-Manoir empty handed.

History dictates one should never underestimate the ability of Munster to grind out an away win, 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 clash with the province, 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.”

Making this weekend all the more poignant is the fact that Munster travel to Paris in completing the round 1 encounter which was originally postponed following the untimely passing of Head Coach Anthony Foley the night before the game was due to be played on October 16th. It’s something that isn’t far from Rassie Erasmus’s and the players’ thoughts this week.

“He’s every week in our thoughts. We’re building game plans and sometimes targets around Axel. Next week will be an emotional week, but we’ve had a few emotional weeks so hopefully we’ll be able to channel it in the right direction”, said the Munster Director of Rugby.

“Emotionally it’s the week we remember Axel passing away. That will be a challenge for us. But we have had so many weird weeks in the past while we have been sitting down on a Sunday wondering how we were going to tackle the next week.

“It started with the week of the funeral and all the deep discussion about whether we would or not play. So we have had to go on with everything and that is what we will keep on doing. We will try not to do anything different this week and prepare as normal.”

Racing 92 v Munster, European Champions Cup Pool 1, Saturday January 7th at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir – ko 3.45pm (Irish time).

This game will be broadcast on Sky Sports.

Next Home Game
Over 20,000 tickets have now been sold for the return encounter with Racing on Saturday January 21st at 5.30pm.

Tickets can be purchased online here, from the Munster Rugby Ticket Offices at Thomond Park and Irish Independent Park or by calling 061 421103.

Ticket offers
Adult and Junior: Purchase any adult ticket and purchase an accompanying ticket (for Junior) at half price.

Student: Tickets start from €;10 with valid Student ID required at the gate on matchday.

Match Packs: Simply select a minimum of three games and save 10% across the cost of all games. Match Packs can be bought online here.

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