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Even skipper O’Gara won’t escape the nerves

Guinness PRO12 Editor

30 Apr 2010

Ronan O’Gara intends to put his nervous energy to work in Sunday’s Heineken Cup semi-final against Biarritz.

The Munster fly-half will take on the extra responsibility of wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of the injured Paul O’Connell for the clash in San Sebastian.

But two-time European champion O’Gara admits he will feel the pressure before running out at the Estadio Anoeta.

"It’s a big game and one we are excited about. As a young player, you may become fearful and nervous about these games,” said O’Gara.

"But there will be nerves among the older lads in the team on Sunday. At this stage of the week we are excited and it’s a game we are looking forward to.

"It’s a Heineken Cup semi-final away from home in Spain against a Basque team so we know we are playing for big stakes.

"It’s easy to produce the goods at Thomond Park but we need to go away to a neutral venue with a hugely intimating home support and get stuck into the game and show what we are made of.

“If we’re on our game then we will be in with a good chance but if we’re not then we’ll be beaten. That is something I find difficult to accept."

Munster have tasted success in the semi-finals of Europe’s premier competition on four occasions.

But O’Gara insists their previous record won’t count for anything in northern Spain.

"We have been here before but that’s in the past. The great thing about sport is that it happens in the present,” added O’Gara.

"We are experienced in big atmospheres and games like these are why we play the game.

"The feeling of winning big games is very hard to talk about especially what happens in the game or what happens in the changing room.

"But that’s what we aspire for and the reason we put in all those long hours during pre-season. We work for days like Sunday.

"And what is great about this bunch of players and management is that the core have been together for the last 10 years.

"We have proven how consistent we are and we’re at the semi-final stage again. We are only two steps away from winning the competition and one step from the final.

"But the feelings of disappointment or elation are magnified by 10 from the quarter-finals on to the semi-finals. We can talk all day about it but it’s all about actions."

Biarritz vs Munster, Estadio Anoeta, Sunday, 3.15pm

Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque: I Balshaw, T Ngwenya, A Mignardi, A Erinle, J Gobelet, K Hunt, D Yachvili, E Coetzee, B August, C Johnstone, J Thion [capt], T Hall, M Lund, W Lauret, I Harinordoquy

Replacements: R Terrain, F Barcella, R Hugues, M Carizza, F Faure, V Courrent, J Peyrelongue, P Bidabe

Munster: P Warwick, D Howlett, K Earls, J de Villiers, I Dowling, R O’Gara [capt], T O’Leary, M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll, A Quinlan, D Wallace, J Coughlan

Replacements: D Varley, J Brugnaut, T Buckley, N Williams, N Ronan, P Stringer, L Mafi, S Deasy