Champions Cup: Toulouse star Pita Akhi expects another tight clash against Munster

Toulouse centre Pita Akhi during a game. Credit: Alamy
Toulouse centre Pita Akhi during a game. Credit: Alamy

Toulouse centre Pita Akhi is expecting another close game against Munster when the two sides clash this weekend in the Champions Cup.

The last time Munster hosted the French giants at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, in last season’s quarter-finals, the game was forced into a drop-out to determine the winner after not even extra time could separate the teams.

“Sea of red”

Akhi admits to being surprised by the hoards of supporters in red supporting Munster, given the game was played in Dublin, saying the atmosphere was “amazing”.

“I didn’t expect that many people to turn up because it’s obviously in Dublin,” Ahki told The42.

“It was a sea of red, it was amazing.

“You could just hear the crowd throughout the whole game singing songs. My wife was in the stands for both the quarter-final and semi-final [against Leinster at the same venue a week later] and she said that the atmosphere in the quarter-final was a lot more energetic with the songs and stuff like that.

“I definitely could feel what the Munster team could feel.”

This weekend’s clash will be played in Limerick at Thomond Park, where the centre anticipates another large and energetic crowd.

Akhi also expects another tight clash and Munster to come at his side, especially after last season’s heartbreak.

“In Limerick, it will be a different beast heading there with a full crowd behind them because Munster in Munster is tough,” he said.

“I’ve played Munster three times now and every game is hard, as you saw last season in the quarters. It went down to the wire, down to penalty kicks. I think it will be a bit of the same.

“Munster will want to get one up on us after last season.

“They take this competition really seriously and they will be preparing really well.”

Champions Cup priority

The midfielder says Toulouse is a team that puts a premium on the Champions Cup and will be looking to improve on their efforts from last season, where they bowed out to Leinster in the semi-finals.

“When we lost last season in the semis, it hurt,” said Ahki. “Leinster is Leinster, they’re a big European side, have a lot of internationals, and they know how to play finals footy.

“Toulouse take this competition seriously, the management take it seriously, and we want to put our best foot forward.”

Toulouse has made a splendid start to their season and sit at the summit of the Top 14 table. They will be boosted by talisman Antoine Dupont who is available for selection after successfully appealing his recent suspension.

“We started off quite well,” said Ahki.

“Obviously, with the French internationals gone and Ange Capuozzo with Italy, it’s quite tough trying to get the new combinations together and all the young boys coming up to get on the same level.

“I guess that’s the same with any other team that has a lot of internationals.

“We’re looking forward to this block of games and then when the Six Nations comes around, we have to pick it up.”

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