Foley keen to erase cup heartache

Anthony Foley believes the pain of previous European Cup final defeats will inspire Munster to glory in Saturday's showdown with Biarritz. [more]

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Anthony Foley believes the pain of previous European Cup final defeats will inspire Munster to glory in Saturday’s showdown with Biarritz.

Munster have been one of the competition’s big guns since its inception in 1995 but have yet to taste European success following two near-misses in 2000 and 2002.

Both times English clubs – Northampton and Leicester – broke red Irish hearts with Saints’ 9-8 triumph at Twickenham the most dramatic end to their title dream.

And Foley, who has played in all but one of Munster’s 76 European Cup matches over the last 11 years, insists the bitter memories of those results will provide fuel for Saturday’s clash.

"It’s no fun waking up the next day after you’ve lost a final. We’ve experienced that and it’s a big motivating factor for us this time around," he said.

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"The disappointments we’ve felt in the past will spur us on against Biarritz. We’ve often talked about how the fear of losing has driven us on at Thomond Park.

"The fear of waking up after a European Cup final with another silver medal is a big driving force for this side."

Saturday’s final is being staged at the Millennium Stadium, the scene of Munster’s 15-9 defeat by Leicester four years ago.

They laid their Cardiff ghost to rest with victory over the Ospreys in the Celtic League final a year later and Foley insists their knowledge of the ground will prove invaluable against Biarritz.

"The first time we played at the Millennium Stadium was against Leicester. It was claustrophobic and the noise levels were not something we had come across before," he said.

"It’s nice to have that experience under our belt as well because it can be a rude awakening if you’re not prepared for it."

Munster will also know what to expect from Biarritz, having lost to the French champions in the quarter-finals last year.

With two large, aggressive packs, both teams like to dominate up front and Cardiff should witness a thunderous forward collision on Saturday.

Biarritz possess greater firepower in the backs but their conservative approach means they are seldom used in the most efficient way.

Instead, as they showed against Sale and Bath, they are happy to use their pack to pulverise the opposition and have scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili and centre Damien Traille to kick for position.

"We were knocked out of the Heineken Cup last season in San Sebastian by Biarritz. What happened that day is fresh in our memories and we have a healthy respect for them," said Foley.

"They have a massive pack with a great backline – Dimitri Yachvili, Damien Traille, Sereli Bobo and Nicolas Brusque are all class operators.

"You have to respect Biarritz and what they’ve done so far in the competition. Their victories have been very clear-cut.

"They’re a bloody-minded side who can cut out opposition teams. They’re a major obstacle to come up against."

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