Trio back Munster to reign supreme

MUNSTER are emerging as the firm favourites to win the Heineken Cup for a second time in the eyes of their Celtic cousins.

On the day that tournament organisers ERC launched the venue for the 2009 final, Declan Kidney’s men got the thumbs up for the weekend from a significant international trio. Beating the drum loudest for a Munster victory over the might of Toulouse at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday was Glasgow coach Sean Lineen.

Speaking at Edinburgh Castle as the Scottish capital was announced as next year’s host city for the 14th Heineken Cup final he claimed Munster would be too powerful for the aristocrats of French rugby.

“I’d love to see Munster win at the weekend, especially as we beat them on the last weekend of the Magners League. That would allow me to tell my players they are among the best in Europe,” said Lineen.

“It promises to be another epic final and I can see Munster’s desire winning through in the end. They love this tournament and they desperately want to win it again after their 2006 triumph. Toulouse are another powerful outfit, but I just have a hunch that it’s going to be Munster’s day.”

Those feelings were mirrored by Edinburgh’s Scottish international full back Hugo Southwell. His side met both teams twice during the season – Toulouse in the Heineken Cup and Munster in the Magners League – and he feels the trophy is bound for Ireland once again.

“With a little bit of luck we could have beaten Toulouse at Murrayfield in the opening round of Pool matches, but they pipped us in the end. They are a great team, but I believe Munster will be too strong up front for them,” said Southwell.

That was also the view of the Cardiff 2008 Heineken Cup Final Ambassador, former Wales, Lions and Scarlets No 8 Scott Quinnell.

The man who helped to conduct the draw at the start of season believes the top two sides in Europe have made it through to the Millennium Stadium.

“Given the Pools that the two teams have come out of you have to give them huge credit. Munster had to beat the reigning champions, London Wasps, the European Challenge Cup holders, French Top 14 runners-up Clermont Auvergne and the Scarlets,” said Quinnell.

“But Toulouse didn’t have it any easier with a much improved Edinburgh, Leinster and Leicester Tigers in their Pool. It speaks volumes of both clubs, squads and coaching staffs that they have made it to the final.

“As to who is going to win, I think the Munster pack will be able to put a stranglehold on the game and allow Ronan O’Gara to dictate.”

Next year’s final will return to Murrayfield next year following a four-year break. In 2005, there were 51,000 fans at the home of Scottish rugby for the second successive all-French final, between Toulouse and Stade Francais Paris. The 2009 Heineken Cup Final will be played on the weekend of May 23-24.

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