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Craig Casey Discusses Munster's Champions Cup Quest Following URC Triumph

Craig Casey Discusses Munster's Champions Cup Quest Following URC Triumph

Munster scrumhalf Craig Casey discusses the upcoming Investec Champions Cup competition, which his team will look to win for the first time since 2008.

Dec 7, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Craig Casey Discusses Munster's Champions Cup Quest Following URC Triumph

In the wake of a stunning United Rugby Championship victory in Cape Town, Munster scrum-half Craig Casey is candid about the team's burning desire to elevate its success by claiming a first Investec Champions Cup (formerly Heineken Cup) title since 2008. 

The triumph in the URC marked a spectacular achievement in Graham Rowntree's inaugural season as head coach of the Irish side, sparking a hunger for further glory on the European stage. 

Casey, a pivotal figure in Munster's recent success, acknowledges the Champions Cup as the pinnacle of club rugby aspirations within the province. However, he pragmatically emphasizes the necessity of navigating through the pool stage, before dreams of clinching the prestigious trophy can be entertained. 

Reflecting on last season's exit against the Sharks in Durban, Casey underscores the importance of overcoming each step in the competition ladder, before setting lofty goals. 

"As a young fella, winning a Champions Cup is something you aspire to," Casey admits. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win the Champions Cup. It’s the holy grail of club rugby, but it all starts with the four group games and getting through those first, before we can talk about winning a Champions Cup. 

“Last season, we got knocked out against the Sharks in Durban in the last 16, so then you have to get through that step before you start talking about next steps, but I think as a goal, the Champions Cup is obviously a huge one.” 

Looking ahead, Casey identifies a notable shift in the team's dynamics this season. He attributes this change not only to their status as URC champions, but also to a greater familiarity with the game model. 

Acknowledging teething problems at the beginning of the previous season, Casey notes the challenges of adapting to new training methodologies and playing styles. 

“It is different, not because we’re the URC champions,” added Casey. “I think it feels different because we’re more familiar with what we’re trying to do as a playing group with the coaching staff. There were a lot of teething problems at the start of last season, obviously, with trying to get to grips with how we were training, how we were playing. 

“Training was getting so much harder for us, so you probably saw that in our first few performances. We were very leggy going into the weekends because we weren’t used to the loads we were putting down. 

“So, it definitely feels different in the sense everyone feels comfortable in what we’re doing now and we’ve got real confidence in what we’re doing. But we’re not comfortable in training with the competition that’s there. The young fellas coming through are absolutely outstanding, and they’re driving that confidence within the whole playing group.” 

Despite the team's return as URC champion, Casey acknowledges the heightened expectations and the proverbial target on their backs. He views this as a testament to Munster's desired status in the rugby hierarchy and encourages the team to relish and enjoy the challenge. 

“Our group, as a whole, it’s brilliant coming back as URC champions, but we’ve mentioned there’s a target on our backs now," he said. "That’s where you want to be, that’s exactly where you set out to be at the start of the season. We’re here now, we’ve got to relish it and enjoy it.” 

As Munster embarks on its European journey, the Champions Cup campaign begins at home against Bayonne on Saturday. The players, buoyed by their recent URC triumph, are poised for the challenges that lie ahead, eyeing the ultimate goal of Champions Cup glory with a blend of confidence and determination.