Williams predicts Thomond Park classic
April 8, 2010
Williams pictured in Munster colours during their 2005 quarter-final clash with Biarritz in Spain © Getty Images
Leinster's one-point win at Thomond Park last week did more than ensure their stranglehold on the Magners League - the Dubliners may have also exposed dry rot in Munster's formidable fortress.
Northampton visit for the second time in the Heineken Cup this season on Saturday - following their narrow 12-9 defeat in January - with their eagerly-awaited quarter-final clash shaping up as another fierce battle.
Jim Williams, the Wallabies assistant coach and former Munster coach and captain, told ESPN's Sportscenter in Australia and New Zealand that after Leinster's 16-15 victory, Northampton and future visitors will believe they have a chance at a place where only Leicester - in 2008 - have won a European Cup match.
"It's always a massive factor, but the aura around it is not that much anymore with Leinster beating Munster there and I think that teams have a new view to going there and are not worried about going there," Williams said. "Northampton gave them a terrible time last time they were there so I think it's going to be a very tight match. I think the players understand now that it's not just the crowd that will get them through but the way they play. It's going to be a cracker of a match."
As for Leinster who host Clermont in their quarter-final, Williams believes a home field will be an advantage. "I saw Leinster and Munster last week and… Leinster looked very good. Mentally they looked very tough and knew how to get themselves out of tough situations. Leinster playing at the RDS will give them the edge."
In the all-French affair that holds Australian interest for the Wallabies selector with Mark Gasnier on the wing for Stade Francais, Williams warns Toulouse against underestimating the Parisians' lowly status in the Top 14. "Toulouse's biggest danger is complacency, thinking that their natural game is going to get them over the line," he said. "There is nothing more dangerous than a Stade Francais side with their backs against the wall being the underdogs.
"It's going to be contrasting styles, Toulouse are going to be wanting to shift the ball, play quick phase rugby and let their natural strength all over the park get them over the line."