Two tribes go to war
Miles Harrison is relishing the chance to see the two giants of the Heineken Cup collide.
Last Updated: 23/05/08 12:25pm
One by one the teams have fallen and now just two remain on course for European Cup glory.
Munster and Toulouse, two of the biggest teams in Europe go head-to head at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday and Miles Harrison is relishing the chance to see these two giants collide.
Munster v Toulouse. Says it all really doesn't it.
MILES: It certainly does. We have the final that the competition has waited 13 years for because of the history that both of these sides possess within the competition. There are no bigger European names than Munster and Toulouse and that is backed up by the statistics. Both have qualified for the knock-out stages for 10 of the 13 years of the tournament. That is an incredible record but they have never met in the final before. Now we have that final. It doesn't need a lot of selling does it?
Munster certainly had the toughest route to the final didn't they?
MILES: It was unbelievably tough and that does mark them out as genuine candidates. They came through the toughest pool I can remember in the Heineken Cup. They had to take on the reigning European champions; the side that was leading the French Top 14 and they had to take on the side who knocked them out of the competition last year. You add that all together and that makes one hell of a group. They only just came out of it ahead, but sometimes 'only just' shows more than racing away from the rest of the group. On the back of that they had a quarter-final against England's league leaders and then a semi-final against another English team in England, albeit it one not at the top of the Premiership, but still a very dangerous side. They took the hardest route to the final and thoroughly deserve to be there.
Munster's traditional strengths are a massive pack with a clever kicking game, however they have added some extra facets to their game with the likes of Doug Howlett, Rua Tipoki and Lifeimi Mafi haven't they?
MILES: They have a cutting edge to their game which means they can pounce from anywhere. Munster have always been terrific at the breakdown because of their pack - especially their back row, who are very mobile. They certainly win plenty of turnover ball, which is dangerous ball, but even from a long way out the likes of Mafi and Howlett make them even more dangerous. This is a very good side and many have argued that they are a more rounded team than the team that won in 2006. Whether they are a better team remains to be seen; they have to win the trophy to claim they are better than the class of 2006.
Munster will no doubt try and target the scrums, but Toulouse are not exactly frail up front are they?
MILES: The Toulouse pack showed against London Irish that they are no pushovers. Their pack is going to be littered with internationals and they are very solid up front. Yes, they have lost a few times on their travels, but away from home they are a different team in the pool stages. However they lost that vulnerability come the knock out stages and they looked very powerful against Cardiff Blues in the quarter-final. London Irish was a potential banana skin for them, but they knew that. They came through that despite having many injuries and there is no reason to think that Toulouse will be frail upfront.
Toulouse have an amazing strength in depth, how important will that be?
MILES: They have a very strong academy that over the years has produced some wonderful talent. They also have the ability to get the cheque book out in the Chelsea football style. If they fancy someone, out comes that cheque book and you find them in the Toulouse squad the following season. They have resources that perhaps no other side in Europe possess in terms of their ability to have quality cover in all positions.
This game is to close to call, but it's going to boil down to one mistake isn't it?
MILES: Yes it is. The club game is littered with these 50/50 end-of-season scenarios. We are getting games that are almost impossible to call and this game fits that bill. It really is as close as that and will come down to who makes that mistake or who provides that moment of brilliance. Toulouse know all about that, they played a blinder against Wasps and lost the game because of that awful error from Clement in 2004. It is about moments and taking the chance when that moment comes. It is a very fine line and I am sure if Munster lift the Cup this weekend, we could say that Toulouse could have won it and vice versa. It is just one of those games.