No panic for Magners giants

Guinness PRO12 Editor

14 Oct 2010


Ospreys skipper Alun Wyn Jones has insisted there is ‘no panic’ at his club despite the frustration of losing in Toulon last weekend, and it is much the same at Munster.

The Magners League Champions came so close to beating Toulon in their opening Heineken Cup clash at Stade Felix Mayol, going down 19-14 having led 14-12 with five minutes left to play, while table-topping Munster were beaten 23-17 at London Irish.

This weekend it is the Ospreys’ turn to tackle the current leaders of the English Premiership and Jones is predicting a feisty encounter.

“In the Pool we are in you just have to try to get out of it. Then you can re-group for the knock-out stage and see where you end up,” said Jones, who was a central figure in the Ospreys’ third Celtic title-winning season last term.

“London Irish will present a different type of threat to Toulon. Their attack is more likely to come from their back three rather than their front row.

“It is going to be attritional at the start before things get sorted out and the game begins to open up a bit. It is going to be a big night and we all know that losing at home isn’t an option.

“Irish have a great line-out and Nick Kennedy and Bob Casey are renowned for their expertise. I’ve never met them before as a pair, but I have played against Nick before.

“We met in an Wales v England international and it is one of the few games I’ve played for Wales in which we’ve had a 100% line-out return. It would be nice to do that again this weekend.”

As for Munster, the bonus point they pinched in the dying seconds at the Madejski Stadiumcould prove critical in the New Year when the quarter-final places are being determined.

And the thoughts of veteran Irish international prop Marcus Horan before the tournament started are as appropriate now as they were a few weeks ago.

"We've been written off before and it drives us. It's amazing how one game can turn things around," said Horan.

“There's a lot of fight left in the guys and defeats only made the fellas stronger. We've been here before.

“We've had 10 years of it but still came back, so I can't see why we can't come back from it again. We're all getting older but a lot of us are still playing some great rugby and there is still great drive.”

Both Munster and the Ospreys hope that such drive and determination will be aided by passionate home followings this weekend as Thomond Park and the Liberty Stadium prepare to host their first European outings of the season.

The Ospreys haven’t lost at home in Europe since 2005, while Munster have tasted defeat just once at Thomond Park in the history of the Heineken Cup.


Thomond Park is one of the world's most famous venues

And with massive challenges against English and French opposition this weekend, veteran Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan and star Ospreys wing Shane Williams are calling for the home fans to turn out in force as they look to get their continental campaigns back on track.

"We don't lose many games at home, we've not lost here in the Heineken Cup for a few years now, and we want to keep it that way,” said Williams.

"We need the fans to be with us on Friday. They need to make a noise and really generate an atmosphere. London Irish had more than 20,000 for their game against Munster and their fans played a big part in the win, getting behind their team and really helping to lift them.

"We need our fans to do the same. When the top team in the English league come to town, we all need to work together if we want to succeed.

"It's no coincidence that the teams that do well in Europe are usually the ones with big crowds and big atmospheres that create something special together on a matchday. We are going to need something similar on Friday."

Those sentiments were echoed by O’Callaghan who is hoping Thomond Park will live up to it’s reputation this Saturday as one of the globe’s most intense rugby atmospheres.

“I know it is tough times for people paying a lot for tickets but if you come Saturday . . . the team needs you,” O’Callaghan told Munster fans in the Irish Times.

“Playing in front of 26,000 and if ever we needed that home support . . . we never needed to get home as badly. So we need everyone coming to make it massive and to make it hugely intimidating.

“It is our home and it would be great if people could drop up. It’s what gets you across the line.”