With both provinces assured of semi-final berths heading into the last round of the RaboDirect Pro12 regular season this weekend, there might be the temptation to approach this contest with a degree of conservatism ahead of the following week’s knockout ties.
Yet this is an interprovincial derby and for Munster there is plenty of unfinished business from this season’s turn of the year league defeat to Ulster at Ravenhill to feed into the hurt still running raw from their Heineken Cup semi-final loss to Toulon in Marseille 11 days ago.
A lot of that pain was evident in the 55-12 hammering Munster dished out to Edinburgh last Saturday at Meggetsfield to secure at least third place in the table.
“I think it was important to rebound. I mean, how do you describe the disappointment of the week before? I think all week everyone just wanted to get out and play and try and prove some sort of point,” Varley said.
With a return trip to Scotland to face current second-placed Glasgow in the Rabo semis looking more than likely, the hooker believes there is plenty to prove over the next two weeks, not least against Ulster, to whom Munster lost 29-19 in Belfast on January 3. The Reds almost mauled their way to victory that night, only for a controversial decision from Alain Rolland to deny them a third rollover try of the night and turn the game, leaving Varley wanting to settle the score.
“Glasgow away, if that is the way it is looking at the minute, we beat them over there this season and they beat us over here (last month), made fools of us over here.
“That is two weeks away and we still have a big game against Ulster that we need to concentrate on. We slipped up there a good bit when we played in January. It is one we need to prove as a team and for individuals who want to put their name forward for maybe international places at the end of the season.”
Varley expects a similar approach from Ulster, who look set for a trip to Dublin to face defending champions Leinster in their fourth versus first play-off.
“I think Ulster have a lot of points to prove as well. Some decisions have gone against them which have put them in a difficult position to probably finish a game when you are playing with 13 or 14 men,” he said with reference to Ulster’s home defeat last week to Leinster.
“I think Ulster are going to attack us up front, particularly in the line-out and maul area. It is a good area that we have and somewhere we probably dominated up in Ravenhill.
“Without a doubt, they are going to try and attack us out wide because that is where we failed the last time.
“It is a Munster v Ulster clash. It is not one they will want to roll over in. We would definitely expect their best side to come down. They won’t want to lose and for any provincial games, it has to be the top 15.”
With Heineken Cup glory put on hold for another season following that defeat to Toulon when, as Varley said, costly errors “will haunt us for a while”, a first Celtic League title since 2010-11 remains Munster’s last chance of silverware in Rob Penney’s two-year reign as head coach.
“You are judged on trophies and victories,” the hooker said. “We have come up short in the past two years. I think it is extremely important that we kick on, that we put in a good performance and go to the semi-final and ultimately win something this season.
“It’s our only target this season, getting silverware after two years of hard work and more importantly huge progression among the squad. As a collective and for Munster Rugby it is very important we win something.”