Having faltered at home in the opening tie to table-toppers Llanelli, Munster garnered an impressive bonus point win over Melrose last weekend. But Foley knows it will have to be followed by another if his side hope to make the knock out stages.
The plus for Foley’s charges is that there is room for error this season, with two teams from each group going forward to the quarter-finals. With Munster in second place, however, the former Munster skipper is aware that it’s going to be a tough road to the finish.
“For instance,” he said, “we have another away game after this against Nottingham. They’re going well and beat Bristol in Bristol last week, so there’s no doubt we will have to be top of our game over those two fixtures particularly.
“But it’s a great tournament from our point of view, and nothing beats the type of challenges we’re facing if we want to get the best out of our players. A couple of years down the line, these guys will probably be facing into difficult Heineken Cup matches and the experience of having had their backs to the wall in this tournament should stand to them.”
Foley has made four changes from the impressive win in Scotland. Sean Scanlan is named at full-back, with Scott Deasy moving to out half to replace Declan Cusack.
The coach has made three alterations in the pack, Stephen Archer for Peter Borlase, Ian Nagle for Donncha Ryan and Niall Ronan for Dave O’Callaghan.
One of the Bristol team might have an equally emotional view on this one. Former Leinster hooker David Blaney has been included in their team to bring an Irish connection to the home squad.
Stephen Keogh leads a team which combines a blend of youth and experience as Leinster go for their third B and I Cup win away to holders Cornish Pirates tomorrow (2 pm).
The province aims to build on their victories in the opening two rounds of this year’s competition. Keogh, a try-scorer in the 25-16 victory over Plymouth Albion in Greystones RFC last weekend, forms a back-row partnership with Eoin Sheriff and Jordi Murphy.
Argentina international Mariano Galarza locks down with Ed O’Donoghue, with Stewart Maguire starting in the front row alongside Jack McGrath. Paul O’Donohoe forms a half-back partnership with Ian Madigan with Brendan Macken linking up with Noel Reid at centre.
BRISTOL: M Davies, G Watkins, J Gadd, E Barnes (captain), D Norton, N Little, R Shaw; T Brockett, D Blaney, D Crompton, G Curry, D Barry, J Brandling-Harris, D Taylor-Menzies, M Mama.
MUNSTER A: S. Scanlan, D. Barnes, T. Gleeson, I. Dineen, B. Murphy, S. Deasy, C. Murray; D. Ryan, S. Henry, S. Archer, B. Holland, I. Nagle, T. O’Donnell, P. Butler, N. Ronan.
Replacements: D. Casey, P. Borlase, D. Foley, D. O’Callaghan, C. Sheridan, D. Cucack, S. Zebo.
CORNISH PIRATES: G. Pointer, W. Davies, D. Locke, T. Luke, R. McAtee, J. Bentley, J. Doherty, B. Cowan, T. Holmes, C. Morgan (capt), B. Gulliver, M. Myerscough, J. Currie, R. Elloway, A. Paver.
Replacements: C. Rimmer, D. Ward, R. Brits, L. McGlone, S. Betty, M. Hopper, R. Cook.
LEINSTER: N Morris, D Hudson, B. Macken, N. Reid, A. Conway, I. Madigan, P. O’Donohue, J McGrath, A. Dundon, S. Maguire, M. Galarza, E. O’Donoghue, E. Sheriff, J. Murphy, S. Keogh (capt).
Replacements. T. Sexton, S. Shawe, M. Flanagan, B. Marshall, J. Cooney, I. McKinley, M. Keating