Munster to learn Heineken Cup fate on Tuesday
THIS season’s Heineken Cup may still be fresh in the memory but Munster will find out on Tuesday morning who they will play in next year’s competition when the draw is made in Dublin.
Munster are again ranked as a Tier 1 team which should keep them away from some of the big guns but there is still the potential for a tough pool. Munster can’t be drawn against any other Tier 1 sides and will be in a pool with one team from each of Tiers 2, 3 and 4.
However, they can’t be drawn with any other Irish team so three-in-a-row-chasing Leinster (who are, unsurprisingly, the top-ranked side in Europe), Ulster (Tier 2) and Connacht (Tier 3) won’t be in Munster’s pool. The other Tier 1 teams that Munster can’t face are Toulouse, Cardiff, Northampton and Biarritz.
There are some very strong teams in Tier 2 though and Munster will be particularly keen to avoid Clermont, arguably the second best team in last season’s competition and one that pushed Leinster very close in a pulsating semi-final.
Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins team - who beat Munster in the Amlin Cup semi-final last year and won this season’s Aviva Premiership - are also in Tier 2 along with Top14 finalists Toulon, Premiership finalists Leicester and this season’s Heineken Cup semi-finalists Edinburgh.
There are a couple of sharks in Tier 3 as well, most notably RaboDirect champions Ospreys and 2011 Premiership winners Saracens.
Tier 4 has three French teams - Racing Metro, Castres and Montpellier - along with with Exeter Chiefs, Treviso and the new Italian franchise Zebre.
The one thing Munster will definitely be hoping to avoid is the pool that will have two French teams. As France have seven teams in the competition there will be one pool with two French teams and the three French sides in Tier 4 are all quite strong.
Arguably the dream scenario would be to get an Italian side, therefore increasing the chance of two sides making it through.
Munster are also likely to come up against some familiar Irish faces. Michael Bradley is in charge of Edinburgh, Conor O’Shea is over Harlequins, Simon Easterby is the new head coach in Scarlets, Tony Buckley is with Sale and Tom Hayes captains Exeter Chiefs.
Next year’s final will take place in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on May 18.
Tomorrow’s draw is live on www.ercrugby.com at 11.15am.
- Munster can’t be drawn with any of the sides in Tier 1 or with Ulster or Connacht. There can be no more than one team from the same country in any pool except for France as they have seven teams in the competition
MUNSTER’S POSSIBLE POOLS
GROUP OF DEATH
Clermont were the second best team in last season’s competition and have a fantastic record at home. The Ospreys whipped Munster in the semi-final of the RaboDirect PRO12 and won both of last season’s regular-season games as well as in the Heineken Cup in 2010. Racing Metro appear the best of the Tier 4 teams and will be very hard beaten, particulalry in France
TOUGH OUT TOO
Munster have bad memories of their last visit to Toulon in January 2011 when a heavy defeat knocked them out of the competition before the knockout stages for the first time in 13 seasons. Top14 finalists and Amlin Cup finalists this season, they’ll fancy a tilt at the big one next year. Saracens were Heineken Cup quarter-finalists this year and Premiership champions last year. Montpellier are another good French side that drew with Leinster at home last season - the only game that Leinster didn’t win en route to their third triumph
NOT THE WORST
If Munster get thispool, then you won’t hear too many complaints from the supporters. Edinburgh may have reached the Heineken Cup semi-final last season but they’re not a side Munster would fear. Likewise with Scarlets, even if Munster struggled to put them away. Zebre, the Italian franchise chosen to replace Aironi, will be an unknown quantity but the hope is always to get an Italian side as it greatly increases the chance of two teams from the pool advancing to the quarter-finals
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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