This may be a pool of death Munster are facing into as the 25th Heineken Champions Cup campaign gets underway this weekend but the fixture schedule has at least handed Johann van Graan’s side the most palatable of introductions, albeit away, with a trip to off-form Ospreys.
The only vague surprise about France coach Jacques Brunel’s decision to keep faith with the 23 players who beat Scotland for Sunday’s Six Nations match against Ireland was that it was the first time he has named the same side for consecutive matches since taking the job in January 2018.
Mike Haley has a debt of gratitude to Danny Cipriani for the mentoring he provided the full-back as a young professional in the Sale Sharks academy. Now on opposing teams, the Munster full-back knows just how dangerous he will be for Gloucester at Kingsholm tomorrow night, should the fly-half pass a fitness test today.
THAT was a game Munster will be glad to have put behind them. Johann van Graan’s side will attack with relish preparations for this Saturday’s visit of Gloucester, after returning home from a daunting, Heineken Champions Cup pool opener, at Exeter Chiefs, with a lot more than expected.
His career as a water carrier brought to an ignominious end by the arrival of defence coach JP Ferreira, Tyler Bleyendaal must content himself with a return to the day job, delighted to be free of the neck injury which had left him such a frustrated figure on the Munster sidelines.
Munster’s planning for a Zebo-less future has solidified with new contracts for Andrew Conway and Stephen Fitzgerald confirmed and a first start of the season for the latter in this evening’s Guinness PRO14 trip to Cardiff Blues.
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, an injury doubt for Sunday’s Champions Cup clash with Castres, says he and his squad will stand by Gerbrandt Grobler, as the debate continues over the decision to sign a player who served a two-year doping ban.
Despite having watched a couple of French front rows disappear into his rearview mirror, Munster prop Stephen Archer is not expecting any reduction in intensity tomorrow when the Guinness PRO14 campaign resumes with a trip to interprovincial rivals Connacht.
Heart, guts, belief. Rassie Erasmus neatly summarised the attributes in the Munster squad that he hands over to Johann van Graan over the next month or so and which his successor saw at first hand on an archetypal European night at Thomond Park.
To listen to Rassie Erasmus on Saturday evening in the aftermath of a fourth Aviva Stadium defeat in 12 months, you might have thought it was Leinster rather than Munster with plenty to put right heading into next week’s Champions Cup pool stages.