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    Cardiff v Munster press clippings



    CARDIFF MEMORIES TO SPUR STRINGER ONWARDS
    Wednesday December 6th 2006


    PETER STRINGER diving over for that try at the Millennium Stadium will always remain the perfect image of Munster capturing the Heineken Cup.


    The shot, showing Stringer in mid air with a smile of deep satisfaction, is, quite sensibly, being used by Sky Sports to sell this season's competition. Images just don't come any better. On Sunday, Stringer and his Munster colleagues will be back in the city where they won the trophy, not at the Millennium Stadium, but right beside it, at the Arms Park.


    Once again, he faces a really tough scrum-half opponent.


    Instead of Biarritz's Dimitri Yachvilli, this time it will be Cardiff's Mike Phillips. If Stringer, or the remainder of the Munster squad, were to lose an ounce of their will to win, this is the type of pool game which could cause them major problems.


    Drama


    It still can, but, fortunately, their dramatic opening away victory over Leicester Tigers showed that they haven't lost that hunger for success. "You can wonder during the summer, will it be there when you get back training," Stringer reflected.


    "But the will to win is there even more so than in previous years. The final victory was a wonderful feeling but it's now something that we are striving for again."


    Most crucially, Munster don't need to to told just how hard life can be in Leicester, or Cardiff, for that matter. As far as Stringer is concerned, Sunday's game will be as tough, if not tougher, than their game at Welford Road.


    "Cardiff are a good side, and if they don't win, they are pretty much out of the competition. That, and their current good form, makes them a very dangerous proposition. Also, we've yet to beat them in the Heineken Cup."


    Okay, but those Cardiff successes over Munster came in the early stages of the competition, and things have changed a good deal since. Something else that has changed is the huge increase in the strength of teams, and individuals, in the competition.


    Take Cardiff's scrum-half Phillips. He is 6'3" and weighs in at nearly 15 stone, which means that he towers over Stringer. What's more, he's quick.


    So, you simply have to get in his face. "He's literally like another back-row, very physical," admitted Stringer.


    "You can't let him get up a head of steam. He likes the quick taps, he's such an aggressive player.


    "If we can stop him at source and slow it down, hopefully, we are on our way to nullifying one of their key threats."


    Strong areas


    That said, Stringer recognises that Cardiff have lots of strong areas, most particularly their back-row.


    "We know the threat that they have around the breakdown, especially with Martyn Williams. His ability around the park, assuring quick ball, is vital to them. The confrontation in the back-row will probably set the tone for the game."


    Phillips is not the only player Stringer rates in their back division. "The full-back Ben Blair is very skilful, I remember seeing him before he went to Cardiff, and thinking what a good player he is. "Tom Shanklin is very strong in the middle. They have quick guys out wide, and, if things are going for them, they will play some adventurous stuff."


    It's just as well then that Stringer believes that Munster were given the ideal preparation with their hard-earned 13-0 success over Connacht in the Magners League last Sunday. It definitely wasn't Munster at their best, but, the way Stringer sees it, there's no better preparation than a match against one of your provincial rivals.


    "I firmly believe that. Because you know the guys so well, it makes them so much harder to break down.


    "Consequently, you must implement the basics to get your patterns right. It's all about basics."


    Satisfied


    Interestingly, Stringer also thought that Christian Cullen had
    Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale

    #2


    06 December 2006


    O’Gara is the man we fear, admits Cardiff’s captain


    By Edward Newman
    CARDIFF BLUES captain Xavier Rush warns Munster out half Ronan O’Gara is the man they fear as the Welsh side bid to overcome the European champions at Arms Park on Sunday.


    O’Gara is now regarded as top out half in the northern hemisphere after a series of imperious displays for province and country, and Rush has put his teammates on red-alert.


    The Blues and Munster have met three times in the Heineken Cup and, although the score stands 3-0 to Cardiff, they last went head-to-head in the tournament way back in 1998. The Blues recorded a 48-18 win at home in 1996/1997 and then in the 97/98 season won 43-23 at home before notching up a 37-32 away win in Musgrave Park. This was Munster’s sole home defeat in the Heineken Cup, although the Red Army have never lost a European tie in Thomond Park.


    But Rush is hugely impressed by “in form” Munster and especially O’Gara. The influential former All Black No 8 views Sunday’s “Celtic Clash” as a massive hurdle to overcome in a must-win game for the home side.


    Despite the Blues’ first away win in France when they beat Bourgoin in round one, a home defeat by Leicester Tigers leaves Cardiff with no room for another slip-up.


    “We have got a massive hurdle to clear,” said Rush. “Munster proved they were the best side in Europe last season by beating Biarritz in the final and they have won their opening two matches in this season’s competition so they are very much a form side.


    “Their top players were in good shape in the autumn internationals series so as a team they will be a very hard prospect for us on Sunday.”


    Blues go into the testing double-header against Munster having safely booked their EDF Energy Cup semi-final place courtesy of a 31-7 victory over London Irish at the Arms Park last weekend, but Rush won’t be reading too much into that result.


    “What is clear for anyone to see is that Munster are a very committed side and fly half Ronan O’Gara directs their game plan. He is a key man for them. He was unreal during the autumn internationals and is the one man who can dictate a game from the off.”


    But Rush accepts the huge size of the challenge ahead over the next two weekends in Cardiff and Limerick.


    “We are through to the knock-out stages of one tournament, so that is a great morale booster, but playing back-to-back matches against the Heineken Cup champions is a massive challenge,” he said.


    “I was pretty pleased with the way we focused on the game against London Irish and I was particularly pleased with our first 40 minutes which basically earned us the right result.”


    “As to what we have to do against Munster we have to worry about ourselves and not the opposition — we have been our own biggest headache by not following through with our own game plan clearly enough.


    “After our win at Bourgoin at least we picked up a losing bonus point in our defeat by Leicester Tigers and we are still in there with a shout of qualifying, it’s all in our own hands.


    “The tournament is still in its early stages and we have extremely hard away games at Leicester and Munster to come later on but they are great matches for us — to test ourselves against some of Europe’s best.


    “We have enjoyed the Heineken Cup so far this year and, with a bit of success as well, it has been good.”


    Click here for irishexaminer.com stories before this date
    Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale

    Comment


      #3



      06 December 2006


      Blues will pay for ‘faction fights’


      By Edward Newman
      FORMER Cardiff and Wales centre and current Old Crescent coach, Mark Ring, claims the Blues will fail again in Europe because of an unwillingness by “factions” to support the regional concept.



      Ring, who signed a two-year contract with AIL division two side Old Crescent in the summer, claims the Munster provincial template will never be matched by Cardiff Blues because they’re part of “a system that still has factions in it who are still not supporting the regional concept.”


      And he says Munster will win on Sunday by targeting weaknesses in the Blues side, especially in their scrum which “creaked” in their 17-21 home defeat against Leicester in their round two clash on October 28.


      “It will be very close but I think Munster will come through on Sunday,” said Ring, who won 32 caps for Wales. “They are European champions and I think they will be too strong for the Blues, even at the Arms Park.


      “Munster have a great physicality and superb decision-makers in the crucial positions. And the wet weather will suit them because they have the game to utilise the poor conditions. They will put the ball ahead of the pack and try to create enough pressure to see out the game and capitalise on the weaknesses of the Blues side.


      “They will target the Cardiff scrum which creaked against Leicester and I think they will have the advantage there.”


      And Ring issued a stark warning for the Blues if his prediction of a home defeat comes true on Sunday.


      “There will be a lot of pressure on the coaching staff leading up to the first game and it is up to them to shoulder it and not let it affect the players,” said Ring. “If they lose at home their European campaign is over and they might as well not get the plane over to Ireland. Better teams have arrived at Limerick, but left Thomond Park with their tails between their legs.”


      Ring, whose Old Crescent side lie in sixth position in the AIL division two table, five points behind leaders Greystones, believes the Blues region could learn a lot from the Munster province off the field.


      “Everything is geared towards Munster and I don’t think the Blues will ever have anything like the same following,” said Ring.


      “The Irish were lucky to have the provincial system in place as professionalism was bedding in. And what the Blues are faced with is a system that still has factions in it and different elements who are still not supporting the regional concept.”


      Ring is amazed at the level of passion people have for rugby in Limerick.


      “I know the Irish have their own sports like Gaelic football and hurling, but nobody can tell me this isn’t a rugby town at heart, especially now.


      “That’s the uniqueness of it, the passion the supporters have. I’m sure it gets the team through matches when they are up against it. That’s why I fear for the Blues. Munster have this unbreakable resolve and it would not surprise me to see them go all the way again.” [img]smileys/thumb-up.gif[/img]


      Click here for irishexaminer.com stories before this date
      Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale

      Comment


        #4
        oh I like that one McC .. very nice ![img]smileys/thumb-up.gif[/img]
        Plato: \"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.\"

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