Champions Cup: Tadhg Beirne admits ‘there’s a special feeling around Europe’ at Munster

Tadhg Beirne celebrates for Munster against Castres in the Champions Cup. Credit: Alamy
Tadhg Beirne celebrates for Munster against Castres in the Champions Cup. Credit: Alamy

Munster second-row Tadhg Beirne underlined his club’s “special” connection to the Champions Cup as the team looks forward to running out against Toulouse this weekend.

It has not been the start to the season that Munster would have liked under new coach Graham Rowntree. However, the Irish side has found some momentum of late, kick-started by a sensational win against South Africa ‘A’ in November.

Munster used that momentum in the United Rugby Championship following the end of the Test window and treated the games as knockouts, beating Connacht and Edinburgh.

Continue building

Beirne is looking forward to continuing the momentum and is excited to play in the Champions Cup.

“The weeks are quite exciting in terms of that; we’re into pretty much knockout rugby when it comes to Champions Cup; you can’t really afford to lose games, and you want to have the home last 16, home quarters,” Beirne told The 42.

“If we’re being honest, those first two URCs after the break were essentially knockout games for us.

“We said that we didn’t talk about the table, but we more or less said that if we don’t win these games we’re pretty much in a lot of trouble. We turned out these performances with our backs against the wall and it’s no different this weekend.

“I’m guessing we’re not favourites, but we’ll certainly relish it, especially at home in Thomond.

“Especially at a club like Munster, there’s a special feeling around Europe in this club. Whether we mean to or not, the mood lifts when it comes into European Cup weeks. It’s no different this week.”

Munster and Toulouse faced off last season in the quarter-finals, where the game went to penalty kicks, with the French side claiming the victory.

Beirne said the team would look back and see how matches were lost in 2021/22 but noted that a lot has changed at the club since then.

“I suppose the only thing we’d look back on is how we lost those games (last season), to learn from them,” Beirne said.

“We’re not really using it as motivation; it’s a new squad this time, new coaching staff, so we’re just worrying about ourselves, and it’s our first (Champions Cup) game with the new coaching staff. We’re just looking forward to having a crack off Toulouse at Thomond Park.

“I think we can put it up to anyone if we play well enough on the day. It’s going to be no different to Toulouse; they have a lot of new players as well compared to the last two seasons. In fairness, they’re probably stronger than they were last season, top of the Top 14 at the moment, and they look very strong again.

“I think we’re very confident the way we’ve been going the last few weeks; we’ve certainly been getting better as the weeks have been going, and we plan to improve again this week. We look to ourselves defensively, and that’s an area we’ve leaked a few tries in the last few weeks. I don’t think you can give Toulouse the easy access we’ve been giving teams, through tries or penalties, that’s probably the main area we’ve focused on.”

Tough opponents

The second-rower was full of praise for the quality of Toulouse and knows Munster will need to be switched on for the full 80 minutes to get the result.

“They’re a bit of everything, physical, set-piece wise, they’re strong in the scrum, and they have individual talent; they’re easy on the eye as a spectator, that’s for sure,” he added.

“Off loose ball, they can turn it into a try out of nothing, you just don’t have a second on the field to switch off on the pitch, you just have to be on at every moment. You will be punished if you do have those moments where you just knock off for a split second. That’s what you can’t do against a side like this.”

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