Ronan O'Gara believes Munster have proven they are still a force to be reckoned with in European rugby following the impressive fashion in which they reached the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup. The 2006 and 2008 champions faced questions over whether they are a fading force after losing to Leinster last week in the Magners League, but the Irish side res- ponded with an emphatic 33-19 victory over Northampton on Saturday, which was inspired by O'Gara, to set up a last-four Heineken Cup appointment with Biarritz next month.
"It's a different competition and that's the key point. This is our competition which we thrive on and we love," said the Ireland fly-half. "Look at our record in it - we have consistently produced and that's a fact. It's not up for dispute. Now we're in a semi-final and we're knocking on the door once again. "That's what pleases me so much - that consistency year to year. It's all we could ask of ourselves."
Victory was secured without Paul O'Connell, their captain, who was a late withdrawal because of a groin injury. O'Gara stepped into the breach, providing crucial leadership in the final quarter when his pinpoint aerial bombardment of the touchlines ground Saints into submission. "It was a huge game for us. We were under pressure because we were coming into the match on the back of a defeat," O'Gara said.
"We put a lot of effort into Leinster but came up short. After that you're never too sure what will happen. What's pleasing is we have a cup mentality that brings out the best in us. It's only one game but it was an important one." In yesterday's action, Toulouse thrashed Stade Francais 42-16 to take their place in the semi-finals. Meanwhile, Danny Cipriani, the England fly-half, admitted he is coming under pressure from his London Wasps teammates to stay at the club and not head to Australia next season.
Cipriani has signed a two-year deal with the Melbourne Rebels to play in the expanded Super 15 next season and he showed Wasps exactly what they will be missing by scoring 17 points and having a hand in four of Wasps' five tries as they beat Gloucester 42-26 to reach the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals yesterday. Cipriani said: "After days like that you do receive some taps on the shoulder to stay. If we win a few trophies, you never know.
Elsewhere, the Free State Cheetahs will have to do without Kabamba Floors for the remainder of the Super 14 season after the No 8 was hit with a five-week suspension yesterday. Floors was cited by SANZAR citing commissioner Scott Nowland for his dangerous tackle on the CA Brumbies full-back Julian Huxley in the 77th minute of the South African team's 61-15 defeat at the Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
Dennis Wheelahan, the SANZAR judicial officer, heard the case and upheld the charge. The length of the suspension is seen as serving as a deterrent, given the increasing number of dangerous tackles that have been seen in Super 14 rugby this term. * Compiled by Graham Caygill, with agencies