Thursday, January 17, 2008

Foley eager to swat Wasps

Munster stalwart Anthony Foley has admitted that their "tournament lives" will be at stake on Saturday when they entertain London Wasps at Thomond Park.

The Irish province need a win to progress to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup for the tenth consecutive time but they must first navigate their way past the reigning champions, who have no intention of letting go of their crown that easily.

Foley was disappointed with his side's first half performance last weekend in France but is adamant that Munster will not give Wasps the start they gave Clermont at Stade Marcel Michelin.

"The first thirty minutes cost us," Foley told this website.

"We didn't play as well as we thought we could and it took a good second half performance to keep us in the group.

"We gave Clermont a soft 14 points and things like that aren't easily fixed. But hopefully for the Wasps game, we'll have all of those things fixed.

"We know exactly what we need to do against Wasps."

A perennial fixture in the Munster team until a shoulder injury in October 2006, Foley struggled to get back into the Munster side until recently, with Munster coach Declan Kidney preferring Denis Leamy at number eight instead of the Killaloe native.

However, an injury to Alan Quinlan at the start of the December forced Kidney's hand and Foley hasn't looked back since, playing in the back-to-back games against the Scarlets and last weekend's match against Clermont.

"I'll always enjoy playing in the Heineken Cup because you know that you're playing against top quality opposition," added Foley.

"To get the opportunity to be back out there again playing is great."

The former Ireland international, while stressing the proven ability of Wasps at this level, acknowledged that Munster's destiny is firmly within their grasp.

"We going to concentrate on winning the game first and foremost," he declared.

"When you look at the Wasps outfit and what they've done in Europe, we've massive respect for how they go about their business.

"But we know that Wasps are coming to Limerick to do what Leicester did to us last year, so we need to focus in now on the game and not get too carried away with the build up.

"Their defence really stands out. They've got a big, athletic pack of forwards in [Lawrence] Dallaglio, [James] Haskell and [Tom] Rees and some excellent finishers in the backs.

"I could go on and on - they're a really good side.

"We've massive respect for them but we know our tournament lives are at stake on Saturday. We'll go about our business between now and then."

It is likely that coach Declan Kidney will favour an unchanged side for Saturday's game, and that will mean a Thomond Park debut for All Black record try-scorer Doug Howlett, and Foley was keen to stress just how important this match will be.

"When you're training hard back in June or July and you've got no rugby, this is what you do it for," he said.

"In the Clermont match, you saw in those last few minutes the boys' ambition in trying to have a crack from anywhere in order to get a draw out of a game which, at half-time, you wouldn't have thought possible.

"It's going to be an excellent contest."

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