At least, it is all in their own hands after tournament holders and favourites London Welsh went down the financial tubes to leave Munster, Rotherham and Doncaster fighting it out to make it through to the last eight from their group.
Because there are only three sides now left in the Munster pool it makes matters more complicated, but Malone explained yesterday that no team in the pool would be left scurrying to make up points in order to catch up with the teams that gained maximum or near maximum points by virtue of having played more games.
“The organisers are working it out on a multiplier system on the basis that if you win all four games you can benefit. It’s complicated but if we win our next two matches, thus meaning all four, we have a decent chance of going through and getting a home quarter final.”
Today, after losing heavily to London Welsh in Midleton at the back end of last year, but having won both subsequent encounters against Rotherham Titans, Malone brings his Munster charges to play Doncaster at Castle Park. Victory, or something from the game would ensure qualification for the last eight, but Malone now wants to ensure a home draw with success for the second time against English opposition.
“Look, it’s not going to be easy; given their position in the Championship (English), Doncaster wouldn’t appear to be as strong as Rotherham, but they don’t give much away and have lost just once at home this season.
“The way it seems to be going is that we need to win both games away and at home to qualify for a home quarter-final.
Malone makes three changes from the side that defeated Rotherham Titans in Ennis and names Robin Copeland as captain.
Kevin O’Byrne starts at hooker with the academy’s Fineen Wycherley and Cork Constitution’s Evan Mintern, who moves from the back row, forming a new second row partnership. Wycherley makes his first appearance.
Another Constitution representative, scrum half John Poland, is the final personnel change to the starting XV with Te Aihe Toma making the positional switch to out half.
Having featured for a Munster Development XV against Ireland U20 over the festive period, Shannon’s Ronan Coffee and Garryowen’s Bailey Faloon are included for the first time.
D Johnston; C Nash, S Arnold, D Goggin, G O’Shea; Te Aihe Toma, J Poland; P McCabe, K O’Byrne, B Scott; F Wycherley, E Mintern; D O’Callaghan, G Coombes, R Copeland (captain).
V O’Brien, L O’Connor, R Burke, R Coffey, B Faloon, C Bohane, S Fitzgerald.