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Page last updated at 07:20 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 08:20 UK

Gaffney wary of Munster forwards

HEINEKEN CUP SEMI-FINAL
Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry Date: Sunday, 27 April Kick-off: 1500 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website

Saracens boss Alan Gaffney
Gaffney is leaving Saracens at the end of the season

Saracens boss Alan Gaffney says his side must stop Munster's revered pack if they are to have a chance of victory in Sunday's Heineken Cup semi-final.

Gaffney, who coached Munster for three years, believes winning the forwards battle is key to nullifying the threat of influential fly-half Ronan O'Gara.

"Ronan contributes so much to Munster but it's the forwards who put him on the front foot," said Gaffney.

"We must compete up front and that is where the battle will be won or lost."

Munster's pack, which includes the likes of Paul O'Connell, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Denis Leamy, Donncha O'Callaghan and David Wallace, is regarded as one of the most attritional in Europe.

And having coached the Irish province between 2002 and 2005, Gaffney knows exactly what makes them tick.

"It's the forwards who give Ronan the right ball," added Gaffney. "I don't think there's a better team in the world at playing on the front foot, whatever style of game.

"The battle up front will effect whether Ronan plays the game he wants."

The ambition to win it is there and we must bring it to the surface on Sunday because it's a cup final for us

Munster coach Declan Kidney

Munster coach Declan Kidney says Gaffney will be afforded a warm welcome by everyone associated with the club.

"When you see Alan Gaffney on the opposing bench the feeling is total respect, not only as a coach but as a person," said Kidney.

"He is a smashing man and a good friend of a lot of people here. He will be the first to say that needs to be put aside on Sunday and everybody go at it.

"The one thing we will guarantee is that we will shake hands at the end of the game."

Saracens have been labelled as massive under-achievers in the Premiership, with the 1998 Tetley's Bitter Cup win their only success in the professional era despite lavish investment from owner Nigel Wray.

And Gaffney hopes their performance in this year's Heineken Cup can help them fulfil their aim of becoming a major force in Europe.

"The players themselves set a target last year that they wanted to be a Saracens team that climbs to another level," said Gaffney.

"They want to be treated with respect. I've only been here two seasons but maybe Saracens haven't been treated with an awful lot of respect in the past.

"Now we're competing with the top sides on a regular basis so we're striving to get there.

"Losing to Gloucester and Wasps in the Premiership over the last two weekends has been disappointing for us but generally we're getting there.

606: DEBATE
RetainTheShed

"We want to be where Wasps or Leicester are. They have the desire to win every game they play and that's where we need to be.

"If we want to be considered in that league then we must want to win every game."

Before this season, Saracens had never reached the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup but they clinched a place in the last-four for the first time with a 19-10 victory over highly-fancied Welsh outfit Ospreys.

Munster, meanwhile, have a fantastic European pedigree.

The 2006 champions are aiming to reach the final for the fourth time and are participating in the knock-out stages for a 10th successive season.

"We understand the magnitude of the occasion," said Gaffney. "It's something that might never happen again and we have to take this opportunity.

"Win, lose or draw we have to give it our best shot and whatever happens, so be it. We've got to front up and if we do, we're in the game."

Gaffney is leaving Saracens at the end of the season, with fellow Australian Eddie Jones taking over, and has signed a two-year deal to become backs coach at Leinster.

Kidney says his players are desperate to get their hands on the trophy again after winning the Heineken Cup in 2006.

"The time that was answered best was just after half-time in the Clermont away match," he said.

"We were down quite a number of points, there was not a lot of things going for us but they rolled up their sleeves and said 'we are not going out today'.

"We didn't win but we dug in and we got a point which is probably why we are still in the competition.

"That ambition is there and we must bring it to the surface on Sunday because it's a cup final for us. We have known that since we lost to Wasps.

"It's another stage in the Heineken Cup we will have to be up there even beyond Gloucester.

"That's just goes with it. Every team in it has to go be that step ahead from the quarter-final. Everyone tries that little bit harder and the intensity of it will be right up there."


see also
Saracens 29-40 Wasps
20 Apr 08 |  English
Munster 9-8 Ospreys
19 Apr 08 |  Munster
Ricoh will host Saracens-Munster
07 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Munster deserve plaudits - Ryan
07 Apr 08 |  Gloucester
Gaffney happy to silence critics
06 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Farrell facing three months out
06 Apr 08 |  Saracens
Saracens 19-10 Ospreys
06 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Gloucester 3-16 Munster
05 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Gaffney named new Saracens coach
12 Apr 06 |  English
Munster appoint Gaffney
18 Apr 02 |  Celtic


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