Balshaw delights in euro triumph
May 3, 2010
Biarritz's Iain Balshaw and Karmichael Hunt delight in their semi-final victory over Munster © Getty Images
Biarritz fullback Iain Balshaw insists his side will be happy to enter the Heineken Cup Final as underdogs but is confident they can upset French rivals Toulouse to win Europe's biggest prize.
The Basques defied their poor form in the Top 14 - they finished seventh - to register an 18-7 triumph over Munster at Estadio Anoeta. Now they face Toulouse in an all-French decider that is fittingly being staged at the Stade de France on May 22.
Balshaw insists they should not be intimidated by a side that is seeking to claim a fourth Heineken Cup title. "We're in the final of Europe so we're delighted. This is what you play rugby for," said the former England international. "You dream of playing in finals of the Heineken Cup, the Guinness Premiership or the Top 14. I'm quite happy that we're underdogs against Toulouse.
"We played them in Toulouse and they gave us a good seeing to, we played them down here and gave them a good seeing to. It's very evenly matched and hopefully the final will be a fantastic occasion. We haven't played very well this season consistently - we were lucky to beat the Ospreys because we made so many errors. But look at the Ospreys and Munster - they have international players littered throughout their squad. To come through those two games, having not played well for 80 minutes in both, makes us very happy. We know we can compete with the best but will have to tighten up."
Biarritz appeared to be heading out of Europe at half-time after a Keith Earls try converted by Ronan O'Gara put them 7-3 behind. But their pack dominated after the interval and Dimitri Yachvili helped himself to six penalties to send the two-time champions tumbling out.
"We made hard work of it in the first half like we did against the Ospreys. We played too much rugby," said Balshaw. "Munster thrive off your errors and we made a lot of those in the first half. That's where their try came from. We addressed that at half-time and in the second half we put them under pressure, forcing them to make errors. We know that when we play well and get the balance right between kicking and playing we can take on the best."
Balshaw won the last of his 38 England caps in 2008 but refuses to waste time hoping Martin Johnson will be watching the final. "I don't even think about it," he said.
Toulouse reached the final for the sixth time with a 26-16 victory over champions Leinster at Le Stadium.
"The most exciting games of recent years have been in European competition; let's not destroy it. " Tom May on the Heineken Cup and why it means so much to the players
After Sam Egerton became the first person to be red carded in the Varsity match, Scrum Sevens looks at other high-profile dismissals at Twickenham
Tom Hamilton pays a visit to Oxford University Women's Rugby Football Club who have recently made headlines across the world, from Tokyo to New York