Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Munster won't surrender hopes of home semi-final

By John Condon

Munster need to beat Ulster on Saturday to have any chance of claiming a home semi-final in the Pro12, but back-row Tommy O'Donnell says they are intent on giving themselves every opportunity to succeed.

As well as turning over an Ulster side who haven't conceded four tries since March last year, Rob Penney's side need Zebre to pull off a giant killing against Glasgow in the Scottish city.

The percentages say that Munster will have to be satisfied with an away trip to Scotstoun in the last four, but whatever happens O'Donnell is determined to finish the season on a high.

"Yeah, it's going to be tough for us now. We'll need the win and we'll need things to go our way in the other game. It's an interesting one though. For a lot of (Ulster and Munster) lads it's basically for Irish teams and places on tours.

"So it should be an interesting game, especially because we still have a chance of getting that home semi-final which would be very important for us.

"We were delighted how it went against Edinburgh. It was great to get back on the horse after the week before and there's still a trophy to be won this year and it's great to win in such fashion as well," said O'Donnell, who signed a two-year extension to his current Munster deal during the season.

But even if Munster can go on an unbeaten run until the end of May and win the Pro12, O'Donnell is not ready to head to the travel agents just yet. After sitting out most of the first half of the season because of a knee injury, and playing a smaller role than expected for Ireland in the Six Nations, he is keen to make the international squad for Argentina.

Coincidentally, his likely opponent on Saturday, Chris Henry, is also a rival for the Ireland No 7 shirt. O'Donnell rates the Ulster flanker very highly.

"Yeah, he's a tough cookie at seven. He's very good at getting and messing up the ball so he's going to be tough to deal with as well. But they have some very strong ball carriers all across the park. They've got some great players and the one thing that really stood out was their defence really in Thomond Park, how good they are and how committed they are to it.

"They're a quality side and they've got a lot of good players at the moment. It's going to be a tough game, you're going to have to prepare for this game like it's a Rabo semi-final.

"You're taking on one of the top four teams and you're taking on one of your Irish counterparts. It's going to be a really tough game and you have to prepare yourself mentally and physically," said the 26-year-old Tipperary native.

Following on from last season when O'Donnell was named Munster's Player of the Year, 15 appearances to date is not what he wanted.

In just his second appearance of the campaign he sustained a hyper-extension of his knee injury against Zebre, which kept him on the sidelines until he came off the bench to face Perpignan in December.

He also concedes that missing out has given him the determination to get some solid rewards for the season.

"We've got something to prove against Glasgow as well. The four teams that are left in it are teams that can say they deserve it this year," he said. "Glasgow have been building a great squad, Ulster have been in and around there the last couple of years.

"Leinster obviously have the reputation of winning but we're there, we've been building our squad, we've been building our reputation.

"We feel we deserve silverware just as much as any of them."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph