Finn Russell Gerry Thornley: Anglo-Irish clashes pivotal to European hopes

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The odds on the Irish provinces repeating their four-timer of the opening weekend were always more unlikely in a quartet of Franco-Irish battles against four of the leading Top 14 sides. And a return of two wins and a draw ensures the upcoming back-to-back games, all Anglo-Irish affairs, will be as pivotal as ever.

Nowhere was the glass half-full or half-empty quandary more in evidence than following Munster’s thrilling 21-all draw at home to Racing 92 on Saturday evening. For long stretches of the second half against a Finn Russell-inspired Racing in full flow, a draw appeared like a good result.

Munster had rowed with the punches before bouncing off the ropes, and it seemed that familiar Thomond Park tidal wave would complete another of their Houdini-esque acts of escapology until, almost disbelievingly, JJ Hanrahan’s hooked drop goal in the 80th minute sailed wide.

The draw would seem to put greater pressure on Munster to beat the holders Saracens at Thomond Park on Saturday week, although Johann van Graan would not quite admit as much.

Finn Russell Munster Coach Johann van Graan during the Heineken Champions Cup pool four match against Racing 92 at Thomond Park, Limerick on Saturday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Munster Coach Johann van Graan during the Heineken Champions Cup pool four match against Racing 92 at Thomond Park, Limerick on Saturday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Saracens home and away was always going to be tough. They are such a fantastic rugby side

“I am going to have to think about that one. It’s the same position we’ve been in for the last two years. Ever since the draw for this group came out we know it was going to be tough either way, and there’s so much rugby to go.

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