Classic Munster-Toulouse between old acquaintances
Stade Toulouse breathed a sigh of relief on the day of the group draw for this new Euro-African competition dubbed the Champions Cup. There is no South African team on the schedule for the first round. The exoticism of a long trip to Cape Town, Durban or Pretoria will therefore come later, perhaps in the spring, if the Stormers can qualify for the finals like the Sharks or Bulls.
Above all, there’s no need to rack your brains to figure out how to negotiate such a trip without over-pulling the strings of players already overwhelmed by the rhythm of a hectic season. “We’ll let the other French clubs have their first forays against the South African teams and see how it goes. Toulouse manager Hugo Mola said this week. There will be habits to adopt to properly manage these long trips and their collateral damage. »
Meeting in a familiar place
Meanwhile, Toulouse is traveling in a familiar place. Fate has reserved for him the Sale English and above all the Munster Irish, which he starts racing this Sunday. A charming menu that feels like a smooth transition from the previous world to the next. The red and black club will initially tackle the rugby they know like the back of their hand in a few months to brave the unknown of intercontinental clashes.
Munster, he’s a pretty good craftsman. He came there two seasons ago (2020-2021), winning the 1/8 finals (33-40), the fifth conquest of the cup. And again last season, in the 1/4 finals, at the end of a great match that ended in extra time and a series of suffocating penalties, Antoine Dupont still took one of the leading roles (24-24, 2-4).
Munster was taken by the Red Army
But what awaits him in Limerick this Sunday will have nothing to do with what he has experienced over the past two seasons. And we’re not talking about this white frost and its subzero temperatures that turn the fields and forests of Ireland’s south county into a Christmas decoration. No, the difference is that Thomond Park will be full. As in 2021, the meeting there was held behind closed doors due to Covid. Nor, like last spring, when the match was moved to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, home of Leinster.
This time the Red Army (the club’s famous supporters) will leave the city center pubs and tirelessly push behind their team to invest en masse in the mythical siege of Limerick. “Muns-ter!” Munster! Munster! “. “The last time we went all the way to Thomond Park, it didn’t go so well, He remembers Antoine Dupont. We won 40 points (41-16 1/4 finals, 2016-2017 season). We appreciate their 16th man. Given our results against their team in two years, he will be ready to take us on. »
Toulouse, thirst for records
Toulouse will be ready. So far, he has always participated in the main events in the history of this competition. He was the first to win it (1996), the first to win it three times (2005), then four times (2010), and five times (2021). It is therefore not out of the question to think that his pride and thirst for records will drive him to become the first club to win this new-look event open to South African franchises.
“It’s true, we never missed each other in those moments, Mola admits. Today, with the arrival of these new teams, the competition is becoming more and more intense and complex. It’s exciting to be able to give yourself the opportunity to measure yourself against them. The sports appeal is obvious. »
The stadium also knows the importance of this first stage in order to prepare well for the rest. Last year, the start of the campaign interrupted by Covid and the questionable decisions of the EPCR forced him to the final stage in the form of an obstacle course where he left a lot of energy. It would take a bad start to send him to South Africa in the round of 16.