Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Munster quality impresses Booth

Venue: Madejski Stadium Date: Saturday, 9 October Kick-off: 1745 BST Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Berkshire, BBC London 94.9 and online, live scores on BBC website, live on Sky Sports 1

London Irish head coach Toby Booth
Booth says Munster are one of the all-time great Heineken Cup teams

London Irish head coach Toby Booth says Saturday's match against Munster will see his side tested by one of the Heineken Cup's greatest-ever sides.

The Exiles open their cup campaign by hosting the two-time winners, who currently top the Magners League table.

"It's a fantastic opportunity from a fans' perspective. They'll love it because of the historical Irish connection," Booth said.

"We're going up against arguably one of the best Heineken Cup teams ever."

The match at the Madejski Stadium is arguably the pick of the opening pool fixtures, as the Magners League leaders visit the Exiles, who are also top of their domestic league.

Both sides have won four of their opening five fixtures, but Booth said he would not read much into the fact that Munster were beaten for the first time this season at the weekend, slipping to a 13-9 defeat against fierce rivals Leinster.

"I've seen the game [against Leinster] and to be honest I'm quite surprised that they lost - I don't know how they lost," he said.

It's going to be a massive step up in intensity - what we did in the first half against Leeds won't be acceptable

London Irish lock Bob Casey

"I'm sure they won't read too much into that defeat. I know there's a lot of bragging rights against Leinster but there's no secret that the Heineken Cup is what everybody treasures.

"You're in a situation in the Heineken Cup where if you get more than two things wrong in six games you're not going through, but Munster, historically, have gone through 12 out of 13 times and I'm sure they're already pencilled in for their quarter-final spot."

The Exiles are in a tough Pool 3 in the competition, which also features last season's Magners League Grand Final winners Ospreys and star-studded French side Toulon.

Booth said that made it all the more important for London Irish to succeed in their home matches in the tournament and admitted qualification was going to be extremely tough.

"When everyone talks about Heineken Cup, the first two words out of their mouths are Toulouse and Munster," he said.

"So we're under no illusion of what's in front of us. I think they've got seven of the top 10 capped players in Heineken Cup history, one of them is on the coaching staff and six are still playing.

"In massive competitions experience is vital and to know how to win, adapt, shift, and to have leadership - all those things are really important.


"That's going to be very difficult to overcome. But you know, we're playing pretty well, we like a challenge and we'll see what happens."

Exiles lock Bob Casey, who used to play for Munster's rivals Leinster, said he relished the prospect of Saturday's tie.

"I've played them many times in the past for Leinster, so I'm really looking forward to it. I have a lot of family and friends coming over for the game. I just can't wait for Saturday," he said.

Casey admitted that the Exiles' display in last Saturday's 40-24 Premiership win over Leeds had not been the club's best and said the side needed to step up in quality if they were to challenge Munster.

"It's going to be a massive step up in intensity and we know what we did in the first half against Leeds won't be acceptable. We'll just find that we'll give ourselves too much of a points gap to close at half-time if we play like that, but I'm sure we won't," he said.

"As a group of players, they're incredibly ambitious and incredibly hard-working and they've been at the top of European rugby for years now. I know they're desperate for more and they always feel like they can win it, and I'm sure this season is no different for them.

He added: "We worked hard [last season] to make sure we were in the Heineken Cup and we're here now.

"And we've got Munster at home, you know it doesn't get much better than that for our fans - who have been brilliant over the years, I hope they enjoy the day and we're going to make sure as players we enjoy the day."

Listen to Toby Booth and Bob Casey on The Scrum on BBC London 94.9 between 2100-2200 BST - also available online after broadcast as a podcast or on iPlayer

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