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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Ntamack knows what to expect
Ntamack seeks more success
Toulouse's French international star Emile Ntamack
Toulouse v Munster | Le Stadium de Toulouse | Saturday, 26 April | 1500 BST

Emile Ntamack may be the old man of an invigorating Toulouse side, but he still craves success like an aspiring youngster.

Now 33, Ntamack, who has not played for France for three years, wants more silverware.

It was back in the inaugural tournament in 1995/6 season that the ''Black Panther'' led Toulouse to glory over Cardiff.

Since then they have fallen foul to Leicester, Brive, Ulster, and most importantly, Munster in the knock-out stages.

For a team that reached the knock-out stages on five previous occasions, missing out in the last two seasons was a bit much to take.

Ntamack is the only player remaining from that Cardiff victory eight years ago, but that does not faze Ntamack.

Despite the presence of young zealots Frederic Michalak, Clement Poitrnaud, and Vincent Clerc, Ntamack is still one of the first names on the team sheet.

But he just hankers for success.

''Our ambition this year is to win a prize,'' said Ntamack, who would still like to add to his 44 international caps.

''We are still on target for the French Championships which we have won six times in the last eight seasons.

''Currently, we are still on course for two trophies, but we are taking nothing for granted,'' said Ntamack who believes Toulouse has had a topsy-turvy season.

''During the whole Six Nations period it was virtually impossible for us to train properly, and I think it showed in some of our performances.

''We struggled to find any cohesion. It's only since the end of the Six Nations that things have started to click and we have felt our game plan starting to come together.

Northampton were one dimensional but Munster are better all-round"
Guy Noves

''Our teamwork is our strength. That makes the real difference. The rivalry within the squad is intense and when we function well as a group, certain individuals are able to shine.''

Ntamack, however, does not have to reminded that it was Munster who defeated a fancied Toulouse side in Bordeaux three seasons ago.

It was the day that Munster came of age. To win on French soil against the French champions was special.

To beat Leicester on their own back yard was something else.

''Munster's victory in Leicester speaks for itself. But it doesn't really surprise me.

''They have a very powerful pack which they use to grind down their opponents.

''In the backs, though, the success of Irish rugby over the past few years seems to have given the three quarters the confidence to chance their arm a bit more.

''The fact that Munster were able to beat the current champions at home is testament to the fact that the Irish can now win anywhere.

''Munster beat us on French soil three years ago and they have continued to improve since then.

Ireland and Munster fly-half Ronan O'Gara
Toulouse coach Guy Noves believes O'Gara is big danger

''Of course, playing in Toulouse is a factor, and we are conscious of the superb support we get from our fans.

''But unfortunately, in a match like this, against a team like Munster, it is not the only factor.

''In the end, it is the team that wants it the most who will get through to the final.

''If Munster really is better than us, then they will win. We will wait and see.'' Toulouse coach Guy Noves has also not forgotten what Munster are capable of.

"We were really knocked off our pedestal that day in Bordeaux," he said.

"And yet they were a fairly inexperienced side. They have had a great season this year and must be favourites.

''Their half-back pairing is first-class," he said of Munster's pairing of Peter Stringer and Ronan O'Gara.

"Northampton were one dimensional but Munster are better all-round. We have to match them up front and ensure we get good, quick ball for our backs."




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