By Damian Dolan.
They’ll be nothing neutral about the atmospheric Stade Vélodome in Marseille on Sunday, as Munster step into the lion’s den to take on defending Heineken Cup champions Toulon for a place in next month’s final at Cardiff’s Millennium.
If Rodd Penny’s Munster are to prevail, they’ll have to do what Leinster couldn’t – beat a Toulon side gunning for a fourth European final in five years. And they’ll have to do it in front of a heavily partisan French crowd, with Munster’s travelling red army expected to be outnumbered in the 40,000 plus crowd, although those that do make the trip will make their presence felt.
Toulon’s star-studded international line up, including the likes of Jonny Wilkinson (ENG), Carl Hayman (NZ), Matt Giteau (AUS), Mathieu Bastareaud (FRA), Danie Rossouw (RSA), Juan Smith (RSA), Delon Armitage (ENG), Juan Fernandez Lobbe (ARG) and Steffon Armitage (ENG). Against Leinster, Bryan Habana (RSA) and Martin Castrogiovanni (ITA) were only good enough to make the bench.
Toulon, though, are sweating on the fitness of captain Wilkinson ahead of Sunday’s semi-final, as the World Cup winning 34-year-old strives to recover from a hamstring injury picked up in the 29-14 win over Leinster. It’s a battle Wilkinson is expected to win, while Toulon warmed up for Sunday with a 46-31 win away over Perpignan at the Barcelona Olympic Stadium.
For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World