MUNSTER return to European action this Saturday, with Thomond Park sold out in advance of the Clermont Auvergne clash.
The epic tussle - followed by a return visit to France just a week later against the Top 14 club - will make or break the province’s season in the newly re-branded European Rugby Champions Cup.
The 5.30pm kick off on Saturday represents a plum tie both for the team, those managing the stadium and the local economy, reflected in the sold out signs going up earlier this week.
Munster Rugby told the Limerick Leader that Clermont had taken just 727 tickets out of their entitlement from the 26,000 total, ensuring that a rabid home support will roar their team through what is expected to be a gritty and tough encounter.
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony made reference to the favourable scheduling of the match at a press conference earlier this week, noting that a full house on European games in Thomond Park was “special”.
“It is going to be unreal, it is going to be great,” he said.
“It is going to one of those special ones again. Half five on a Saturday is the one you want. It is something that you never take for granted, obviously pending selection, but you get a chance to go out there on Saturdays which you’d never take for granted.”
Asked about the Thomond Park ‘effect’, the back rower said: “For me it is just a confidence boost just to know that you’re at home and everybody is behind you and everybody is willing you on.
“It is kind of hard to put into words that it is like; it is what’s special about the ground really.
“If you were to take a snapshot of it, the little canter we do when we go back in, you’d have to ask an opposition player what it is like,” he added with a laugh.
Hotels across Limerick are reporting full or close to full occupancy levels for Saturday, if not the weekend, with the sell-out clash coming as a welcome boost to the hospitality industry across the city.
Munster are two from two in European competition so far this year - and top of the Guinness PRO12 - and an almost capacity crowd watched the team defeat Aviva Premiership high flyers Sale Sharks 14-3 on a Friday night in October in the side’s last outing in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
Coach Anthony Foley said Munster need to be “ruthless” against Clermont, who narrowly beat the team in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup two years ago.
“Everyone knows it is played over 160 minutes, but what we have to do is deal with the 80 minutes (on Saturday) and make sure we are properly prepared.”