Rugby Union: Heineken Cup Mind Games Begin

Andrew BarrySenior Analyst IMay 4, 2008

Toulouse coach Guy Noves believes that Munster will be favourites for the Heineken Cup crown when the two sides meet in Cardiff later this month.

Noves revealed that he was hoping Saracens would triumph against the former champions at the semi-final stage, going on to admit that Declan Kidney's side will pose a very stern challenge.

"Along with Leicester and Toulouse, Munster figured among the big favourites for the title," Noves is quoted as saying by The Irish Times.

"Given Munster's titles and experience," he added, "their victory was expected, as was ours the day before, and they managed to impose themselves on Saracens, which not everyone is capable of."

Noves' side have been beaten by Munster previously, but also have the spur of trying to beat the team that defeated Biarritz in the final two years ago.

"This time, we will not let ourselves be lulled by the siren's song," Noves vowed.

"Neither team will be terribly complex, but ours will still be handicapped as the Munster pack is that of the Irish team, the outhalf O'Gara is an exceptional game leader and the back line is rich in individuals, beginning with Doug Howlett.

"I can say just one thing: if the Munster team is to become champions of Europe, it will be that they'll have truly earned it. For Toulouse, the final can only be a bonus. Either they become heroes by winning or defeat will be considered normal.

"Having avenged Perpignan against London Irish we shall try, all the same, to avenge Biarritz, who were punished by Munster on this same Cardiff pitch in the presence of 50,000 Irish supporters.”

The mind games have well and truly begun…