Tigers have know-how to win pressure game

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The Independent Online

There will be no tactical mysteries when Munster attempt to stop the Leicester machine in the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. They will try to do what Llanelli did in the semi-final – out-muscle them, keep it tight and apply a stranglehold.

There will be no tactical mysteries when Munster attempt to stop the Leicester machine in the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. They will try to do what Llanelli did in the semi-final – out-muscle them, keep it tight and apply a stranglehold.

If they succeed in doing that, the Irish won't then make the same mistake as Llanelli did. They're much too experienced at this level to sit on a lead and expect the Tigers to slip quietly to defeat in the closing stages.

Munster know enough to keep the pressure on until they've drawn the last gasp of the game. Whether they can be in the lead at that time is another matter. I wouldn't put it past them. Munster have gone to many places as underdogs as left as winners. They have this mental toughness that doesn't allow them to recognise defeat until the ref tells them it is time to go home.

And they won't find the Millennium Stadium an unfriendly venue, either. We are told to expect some 20,000 over from Ireland. Leicester will probably bring more but I should imagine that the Welsh who are in the stadium will be inclined to cheer their Celtic cousins. It will be a full house of 74,000 and the atmosphere will be electric.

A great final is in prospect. It may not be a handling classic but if you like your rugby raw, intense and utterly committed you are not likely to leave your seat until the final whistle.

Leicester have to be regarded as slight favourities. They might just offer that little bit of extra pace that will make the difference at a crucial time.

They have been going through a lull, though, and they weren't at their best against Llanelli. They had enough in the locker to snatch it at the end but they knew they'd been lucky to get away with a Tim Stimpson wonder kick.

They need to pick their game up. Key players are tired. Men like Martin Johnson, Austin Healey and Martin Corry have performed above and beyond the call of duty and need to call on their last reserves.

Although Healey did not function well against Llanelli, I suspect he will be called on again to play at outside-half. I would certainly play him at 10 instead of Andy Goode and although scrum-half Harry Ellis scored the vital try in the semi, I would play Jamie Hamilton at nine so that Healey would get a quicker service.

Much of Healey's failure in the semi was due to the efficient way Llanelli harried him. He tried to do too many things under pressure and he won't make that mistake again. Neither will Leicester make the same mistakes as a team. In many ways, the semi-final will have been a warning. They'll be facing similar tactics and will be wiser. They'll try to get their back-line moving sooner and get players like Leon Lloyd travelling at full steam.

Munster will be doing their utmost to disrupt them with their quick back-row men Anthony Foley and David Wallace. It will be a hard defence to breach particularly as the Irish team's half-backs will be forever kicking for territory and making Leicester attack from deep.

What makes the battle more intriguing is the fact that they know each other so well. Performance on the day will settle it and Leicester, as is their habit, could well nick it in the end.

The Parker Pen shield final on Sunday will be a game of a much different nature. Both Pontypridd and Sale are footballing sides and, in a ways, Ponty are unlucky in that respect.

They've played so well this season to beat Saracens and London Irish on their way to the final. But Sale are not like the usual English club team.

They are more like a Welsh team in their approach and with players behind the pack like Jason Robinson and Charlie Hodgson plus wingers Mark Cueto and Steve Hanley they are going to offer more problems. Pontypridd, however, are extremely high on confidence at the moment and they have a great chance to take this route to qualifying for the Heineken Cup next season.

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