Munster need to repeat Cup success – O’Gara

Ronan O'Gara insists Munster have to retain the Heineken Cup this year if they want to be considered one of Europe's greatest sides. [more]

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Ronan O’Gara insists Munster have to retain the Heineken Cup this year if they want to be considered one of Europe’s greatest sides.

Munster, twice losing finalists, ended 11 years of frustration and were crowned European champions with a victory over

French giants Biarritz at the Millennium Stadium last season.
Cardiff was turned into a sea of red and the streets of Cork and Limerick were packed with thousands of celebrating fans.

After the near misses it was emotional occasion – but O’Gara is not yet satisfied.

Leicester (2001, 2002) and Toulouse (1995, 2003, 2005) are the only sides to have been crowned European champions more than once.

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And O’Gara is determined to help Munster break into that elite pool by lifting the trophy at Twickenham in eight months time.

"We worked bloody hard to win this tournament and we don’t want to be the nearly men when people talk about great sides in the Heineken Cup," said O’Gara, who is the tournament’s leading scorer.

"There is absolutely no way we are going to take our foot off the pedal now that we have finally won the title.

"We want to go on from here – you can only be called a great side when you win this tournament on more than one occasion.

"We respect how difficult it is to win the Heineken Cup, you need a bit of luck and the real key is to stay injury free.

"But we have a great bunch of lads at Munster and some very fine players. Paul O’Connell has taken over as captain and he will bring a great attitude to the job because he is a great performer who sets very high standards."

In an enthralling opening weekend tie, Munster have been drawn to face Leicester at Welford Road – the current champions versus the only side to have ever retained the trophy.

"Playing Leicester is going to be hugely difficult – it will be a massive challenge," said O’Gara.

"They have been the driving force for the last 10 years in England and European rugby circles.

"Welford Road is a very tight ground with a small pitch. But the atmosphere is electric and these are the sort of games everyone looks forward to."

Munster have not been travelling so well this season. They have won just two from six in the Magners League, including a 27-20 defeat to arch-rivals Leinster.

And they have a reputation for starting slowly in the Heineken Cup, which can make life a great deal harder further down the line.

Hooker Frankie Sheahan explained: "Traditionally we haven’t got off to a great start in this tournament, we have lost twice to Gloucester at Kingsholm and Sale last year.

"So the Leicester match is huge for us. It is ironic that we are playing Leicester in round one as they are the only team who have ever retained the Heineken Cup.

"The thing with the Heineken Cup is that there is no room for slip-ups – if you lose one match you could be drawn a quarter-final in France which is a huge challenge.

"It’s a huge weight off our shoulders to finally have won it and I am hoping that this year we can really start expressing ourselves and go from strength to strength."

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