Belfast Telegraph

Munster's Paul O'Connell clinging to his Euro dream

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

The end may be nigh, but the fear never recedes. Paul O'Connell is contemplating retirement, but he remains driven by the consequences that defeat might hold.

The feeling must be familiar at this stage given Munster have rarely, if ever, made life easy for themselves in Europe.

Lose to Saracens on Saturday (1.00pm) and it's the end of the road regardless of what happens eight days later at Thomond Park, and the prospect of a home dead rubber against Sale Sharks is beyond the pale.

Win, and they stay in the hunt by the skin of their teeth. They earned this shot through their refusal to die in Clermont, and O'Connell and the squad are intent on taking it.

"They're probably slim," the Ireland captain said of his team's chances of remaining in the competition beyond the pool stage.

"We have to do something I wouldn't say that we haven't done before, I think in Anthony (Foley)'s era we were in a similar position when we lost to Perpignan over there (in 2003, the year of the 'Miracle Match'), and we managed to pull through but it's going to take a little bit of luck to go away to Saracens and to win this game because it is going to be really difficult. So if we can do that, we give ourselves a chance.

"These weeks are as hard as ever. They're nervy, edgy weeks in the build-up.

"I suppose you're afraid of the consequences of losing and you know what opportunities winning can bring.

"I know how tough it is going over there. They're a really clever team, very hard to analyse, very unpredictable. They prey on a lot of your errors and they force teams into errors, so it's going to be a very tough game for us.

"It would be fantastic to get a result, get a win over there and give ourselves a shout and a chance of qualifying, but it's going to be very difficult."

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