HAVE you ever been wiped out by a wave while swimming in the sea, and just as you stumbled back to your feet and regained your stability, you were smashed by another one leaving you breathless and disorientated?
This is the best analogy I have to describe what Munster are facing with the arrival of Toulouse, the four-time European Cup champions, given what happened on Saturday last in Dublin, against Leinster.
The only difference is that unlike the misfortunate swimmer, who knew nothing about the second wave, Munster are very conscious of the French juggernaut’s arrival and can brace themselves.
Whether they can remain standing and not find themselves gasping for air is another question and one that can only be answered come the final whistle.
Munster rugby has endured many a dark day in its illustrious history, but what transpired last week, at the hands of Leinster, was one of their darkest chapters.
You can point the finger of blame at the coaching staff or at the players, but there were three reasons why the celebrated jersey of Munster bled.
First of all, Leinster were simply magnificent and there isn’t a pile more to say about that, because that’s the way it has been for the last 10 years. To think it was going to be any different was a miscalculation.
Secondly, the Munster coaching staff must admit that they got the mental preparations wrong. It seemed to me that they were hoping that the failure of not having won anything for over 10 years and the departure of CJ Stander were going to motivate the players to a level at which they had not played for a very long time.
Thirdly, and most importantly for me, was the willingness of the players to accept their fate and this became more evident as the game elapsed.
I have been on the end of some serious thrashings, as a player, but I never sat back and just let it happen.
Whether I was right or wrong in the actions I took is open for debate, but what I was not prepared to do was give up and admire the opposition as they walked all over me.
I have a rough idea of what was said at halftime in the Munster dressing room and much of it was based on how well the players had defended their try line.
I know the coaching staff need to be somewhat positive, but if they told the truth they would have informed the players they resembled 15 rabbits that had been startled by the headlights of an 18-wheel articulated truck.
There comes a time when the truth must be told and waiting until the Monday morning video review is never recommended when you played in a final the previous Saturday.
Last week, Toulouse also produced a rather humiliating display, when they were given a lesson in desire by Montpellier, who are languishing towards the bottom of their Top 14 league table.
Unfortunately, this Toulouse loss has come at the wrong time for Munster, because if this star-studded side had any preconceived notions of immortality, that is now gone and in its place lies the very real task of playing in a venue, Thomond Park, where the best sides in the world have had their asses handed to them on a plate.
The loss of Toulouse’s French international, Sofiane Guitoune — who suffered what is suspected to be an anterior cruciate ligament tear — has given their coaching ticket a headache, because they are already suffering from injuries in their midfield.
However, on the flip side, they will welcome back Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack, who constitute one of the most exciting half-back pairings to have emerged in recent years.
The loss of Munster’s 16th man, the supporters, for this quarter-final, is going to play a big part.
Only a fool would bet against Munster winning this game — because of their European pedigree — but every logical conclusion is pointing to this game being CJ Stander’s, Billy Holland’s, and JJ Hanrahan’s last stand.
If they do go down — and I think they will — all I can hope is that they go down fighting and that this Toulouse outfit wake up very sore on Sunday morning.
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