Damian de Allende believes Munster have the ambition to cause a massive upset when they face reigning champions and title favourites Leinster in the PRO14 semi-finals on Friday.
Leinster have been the best team in the competition over the past three years, winning back-to-back titles in the 2017-18 and the 2018-19 seasons and they are now gunning for a three-peat.
But to claim an unprecedented third consecutive PRO14 title, Leinster first have to beat longtime rivals Munster in a semi-final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Despite Munster’s underdog tag heading into the showdown, De Allende says under the tutelage of coach Johann van Graan the club is showing enough ambition to secure trophies and that excites him.
‘For me personally, no matter where I play, I always strive to win tournaments and championships. I signed for Munster because I feel they have the credentials, the coaching staff and the heart,’ De Allende said.
‘From what I’ve watched on television, and obviously I have only played two games here, but I feel they have that team environment that they actually want to achieve – where you could go to another squad and you will have all the names and stars but they aren’t working for that success.
‘I feel just playing in these two games, there is a real want and desire to win the semi-finals and finals, and not just once or twice, but consistently. And not just in PRO14, but in the Champions Cup as well. Friday night is going to be a very tough encounter but hopefully we will pitch up.
‘We know it is just a mental thing. We haven’t played a lot of rugby over the past six months, so there will be a few sore bodies. I think if we get the right mindset and we pitch up knowing we have one opportunity, and not worry about anything else, just stay in that moment for 80 minutes then hopefully we can walk off with big smiles on our faces on Friday night.’
Speaking about the rivalry between Munster and Leinster, De Allende says it reminds him of the north-south derbies between the Stormers and Vodacom Bulls.
‘I think it is quite personal, for me it is quite similar to when I played for the Stormers against the Bulls. It is like a north-south derby, it is personal and physical,’ he explained.
‘It gets quite intense on the field, even though you have a massive amount of respect for each other. I’m not Irish but those Irish guys are competing for spots to play for Ireland, but there is still that mutual respect for each other on and off the pitch.
‘I probably need to play a few more, but I certainly do understand the way they see it and it is very encouraging to help them beat Leinster as well.’
Leinster will start as odds-on favourites but Munster hope to be third time lucky – the third time they will face their rivals in PRO14 playoff games in as many years. And De Allende is champing at the bit to get out there to front Irish centres Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose.
‘They are both world-class centres, both have been very good at international level. Leinster was very good and they put in some good kicks behind us as well. We know that we can’t put too many at the breakdown, sometimes we are committing too many guys, especially on our defensive line.
‘If we commit too many guys and we are short on defence, they will exploit us very easily. They did so in that first game. We need to be aware of that, they are also very physical and very fast and we will have to be switched on.’
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