Munster kick off European odyssey with trip to Exiles

SUPPORTERS of double Heineken Cup winners Munster won’t have to worry about Limerick’s dreaded Friday night traffic for the opening two home rounds of next season’s tournament.

Drawn alongside London Irish, Toulon and Magners League champions Ospreys, Munster will host the French outfit at Thomond Park on Saturday, October 16 (3.30pm) and the Welsh giants on Sunday, December 12 (1pm).

Munster start their campaign with an away clash to the Exiles and after two home games must then go on the road twice in succession (away to Ospreys and Toulon) before welcoming the English Premiership outfit to Shannonside in January.

Coach Tony McGahan described the opening sequence as “very difficult”.

He said: “We recognise the quality of the opposition we face; there are no weak sides. All of them are capable of winning the competition and certainly of getting results on the road. We’ve got to aim for the same in this marvellous competition, which I believe is the most competitive cup tournament in world club rugby.”

Speaking of the opener against the Exiles, he said: “Home advantage is important but it can also bring it’s own pressures, particularly in round one. Still, London Irish will prove a massive challenge; they were just edged out of a place in the play-offs last season and prior to that, lost narrowly in the semi-final.

“Toulon represent a little bit of an unknown quantity in the respect that we’ve never actually played them before, but we have seen plenty of their capabilities against other teams. It’s probably better to get them in Limerick first up.

“We know all about the Ospreys and they will be confident after winning in Thomond Park on their last visit. These back-to-back games are always of crucial importance to the outcome of the pools.” he said.

Meanwhile London Irish rejected any thoughts of moving their Heineken Cup ties away from the Madejski Stadium, in the hope of creating a hostile environment.

Director of rugby Toby Booth: “We are relishing the challenge of the Heineken Cup. Doing battle with the best of the best on our own turf guarantees a true test of how far we have come in recent years. We need to leave visitors in no doubt the Madejski is a London Irish stronghold. I ask our supporters to get behind the squad, fill the stadium three times over and show we’re a true force to be reckoned with.”

Leinster, the 2009 champions, start off with a home clash against the cash-rich newcomers Racing-Metro 92, with an early afternoon kick off on Saturday, October 9.

The Blues then go on the road against Saracens and Clermont Auvergne for two fixtures, the outcome of which will surely define their Heineken Cup season.

Ulster will be the first Irish side in action when they take on Italian debutantes Aironi at Ravenhill on Friday, October 8.


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