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Munster captain Peter O’Mahony wants his men to channel their emotion into a winning performance in their rearranged European Rugby Champions Cup clash with Racing 92.
Munster and the rest of the rugby world mourned when director of rugby Anthony Foley passed away in Paris ahead of the fixture in October. The Irish province return to Stade Yves-du-Manoir for their Round 1 clash on Saturday as they look to retake top spot in Pool 1 from Glasgow Warriors.
O’Mahony’s men have gone on to record big victories over Glasgow Warriors and Leicester Tigers since, before a last minute defeat in the return leg at Welford Road. They currently sit second behind the Warriors, but can rise to the top if they inflict a fourth successive European defeat on Racing.
O’Mahony said: “Obviously, there’s no two ways about it, it’s going to be a difficult week for a lot of guys but you’ve got to stick to the routine, stick to what we normally do in a week and try and keep the head down. Ronan O’Gara is too big a competitor to let this one slip and he’ll be teeing them up for us.
“We are preparing for the best team we’ve played against this campaign and the quality they have and the performance they are going to put in, so we’re going to have to be good.”
Last season’s runners-up Racing are out of Europe after their trio of defeats, and they look set to name a much changed side this weekend. They have delisted France international Remi Tales from their squad and may be without key-men Dan Carter and Maxime Machenaud.
But head coach Laurent Labit reckons Racing have the perfect spy in his assistant Ronan O’Gara, who lifted a pair of European cups with his native Munster.
He said: “It's very tough fixture always against 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.”
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Munster will head to Scotstoun in Round 5 knowing that victory over Glasgow Warriors will be good enough to earn them a Champions Cup quarter-final spot as winners of Pool 1.
The Irish side picked up a third win in four outings as they put last season’s beaten finalists, and reigning French champions, Racing 92 to the sword. It took the Irish side a mere 54 minutes to bag a bonus point as they put in the perfect performance to honour the memory of their former captain and coach, Anthony Foley.
It had been the untimely death on the eve of this Round 1 fixture in October that forced the game to be re-arranged and Munster responded with a passion-packed performance that took them to the top of the pool, three points clear of Glasgow.
Racing fell to their fourth successive defeat in the pool as they fell to their heaviest Champions Cup defeat. The 31 point losing margin was six points worse than they had ever suffered before.
Munster dominated the opening quarter and it took some excellent home defence to keep them at bay. The first points came from the boot of Munster outside half with a penalty after 14 minutes and the nerves of the visiting fans were soothed by three tries before the break.
Simon Zebo crossed for the opening try, his 50th for Munster in all matches, and then Heineken Man of the Match CJ Stander raced almost 20 metres for the next one. On the stroke of half-time Conor Murray clipping a grubber kick along the right-hand touchline that popped up perfectly for Andrew Conway as he ran down the line and a third Munster try was confirmed by the TMO.
Bleyendaal took his first-half tally up to 10 points with a second conversion to add to his earlier two penalties and Munster were well on their way. It took a mere 14 minutes of the second half before outstanding hooker Niall Scannell drove over from a five metre line-out for the bonus-point try which Bleyendaal again converted.
That it was it for Munster, although they continued to dominate proceedings, but there was a slight sting in the tail as Racing salvaged some pride with a try from back row man Mathieu Voisin which Dan Carter converted.
The two teams meet again in Round 6 at Thomond Park, where Munster have already sold 20,000 tickets for a game that will see former great Ronan O’Gara return with the French side as one of their coaching team.
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