Rugby

Habana: Toulon to make history

2014-04-26 09:18
Bryan Habana (AFP)

Marseilles - Munster hope the record-setting experience of 11 European Cup semi-finals will help derail the galacticos of defending champions Toulon in Sunday's last-four showdown in Marseille.

The return of Springbok wing Habana from a hamstring strain is the only change from the side which started the quarter-final win over Leinster.

Wilkinson who was hurt in the match against Leinster, has also recovered from injury and will start at fly-half.

Habana, who has endured a stop-start career in France, believes the double is still on for Toulon.

"We are definitely going all out on both fronts," he told Britain's Daily Telegraph.

"If you want to be part of a club that can create history you have got to lay everything down on the line.

"It is a tall ask, of course, for players but at Toulon we have so many to choose from and they are all playing fantastic rugby.

"In the southern hemisphere, you only have one competition at a time, so you can put all your emphasis on that and then go back to the drawing board for the second one.

"It is a lot more difficult here...Doing the double would be something amazing, something historic."

The Irish side, champions in 2006 and 2008, have revenge on their minds having lost 26-9 the last time the two teams met in the tournament in 2011.

But they face a daunting task against a Toulon side bolstered by a pair of all-time great backs in Jonny Wilkinson and Bryan Habana.

"It's going to be very tough, but that's what the competition is at this stage," said Munster and Ireland veteran lock Paul O'Connell.

"Toulon have incredible talent all across the team. They have recruited really well -- world-class players that love living in Toulon and playing for Toulon. When you see the way they play it's an incredibly tough task for us."

Munster have lost their last three European Cup semi-finals but with Toulon missing key forwards Ali Williams and Bakkies Botha, O'Connell believes his side can end that sequence on Sunday despite the match taking place in France.

"I think for this team -- at the moment anyway -- being away from home and having the odds against us probably suits us," he said.

Hooker Damien Varley will skipper Munster while openside flanker Donnacha Ryan, who has a foot injury, is replaced by Sean Dougall.

Coach Rob Penney also keeps faith with the front five that started the quarter-final win over Toulouse.

Meanwhile Toulon will be bidding to go one better than last season by completing a Top 14-European Cup double after falling in the 2013 domestic final to Castres.

Munster, meanwhile, will field a player who could have slipped comfortably into any French side had family history taken a different path.


Wing Simon Zebo has an Irish mother but his father, Arthur was born in the French overseas region of Martinique.

Arthur Zebo was an accomplished 800 metres runner who was set to represent France at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal before injury curtailed his dreams.

"Simon is an artist, not the typical Irish player. He has a lot of the French in him," joked Munster backs coach Simon Mannix.

Read more on:    toulon  |  springboks  |  heineken cup  |  bryan habana  |  rugby
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