Needing only a win with four tries to advance to the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup, Munster welcome Racing Metro 92’ to a heaving Thomond Park today. (12.45KO)
Leinster’s exploits at Exeter last night has left the door for the quarter-finals firmly in the hands of Rob Penney’s Munster who are on 15 points in Pool 1. Other results elsewhere helped Munster no end. Northampton Saints fell to Glasgow, ruling them out of the equation, while Montpelier has already claimed one of the two best runners-up spots with surprise win over Toulon.
Joe Schmidt’s Leinster did all they could at Sanday Park, scoring four tries winning 29-20, but the clubs future in the competition is out of their hands as the defending European champions lack of tries in the earlier Pool games leaves them on just 20 points in the overall standings.
In Munster team news Mike Sherry starts at hooker after overcoming yesterday’s training session unscathed. Sherry was originally named on the replacements bench when the official team was announced at 12 noon yesterday. However, after the session he was deemed fit enough to start in place of Declan Varley.
Racing are only playing for pride in the competition but some, if not a vast quality of their players, are playing for their club future as Racing ‘owner/trainer/jockey’ Jacky Lorenzetti has issued a stark warning to his overpaid stars, there will be a massive clear-out at the end of the season.
First and foremost a win is needed and, as for the tries, Munster and their passionate fans should remain patient and take the chances when they arrive.
The fact that this game is at Thomond Park all points to a home win. When everything else has gone your way over one of the most exciting weekends in Heineken Cup rugby, the former two-time champions of Europe will probably triumph and qualify, at the expense of their nearest and greatest rivals Leinster.
Verdict: Munster bonus point win.
(15-9)F Jones; D Howlett capt, K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; Ian Keatley, C Murray;
(1-8)D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.
Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, J Ryan, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, C Laulala.