MUNSTER will renew rivalry with some familiar faces when the pool stages of next season’s Heineken Cup gets underway this October.
Rob Penney’s men were handed a favourable draw for Europe’s premier club rugby competition, placed in Pool 6 along with French Top 14 side, Perpignan, English Premiership outfit Gloucester and RaboDirect PRO12 opponents Edinburgh.
Last season: Gloucester finished fifth in the Premiership table last season to ensure their qualification for this season’s Heineken Cup. Also reached the knock-out stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup before losing to Biarritz.
Heineken Cup pedigree: Made the quarter-finals in both 2004 and ‘08, but lost both times to Wasps first time round and Munster at Kingsholm five years ago.
Previous with Munster: Munster have a long history of facing the Cheery and Whites in Europe’s premier club rugby competition. Those meetings include Munster’s unforgettable 33-6 ‘Miracle Match’ success at Thomond Park in 2003 and a quarter-final victory over the English side at Kingsholm in 2008.
Familiar faces: Former England international Mike Tindall recently signed a new contract with Gloucester to continue his role as player-coach. Squad also includes New Zealand World Cup-winning scrum-half Jimmy Cowan, Scottish lock Jim Hamilton and England stars Billy Twelvetrees and James Simpson-Daniel
Last season: Perpignan finished seventh in the French Top 14 last season, winning exactly half of their 26 league games. The French side topped their group in the pool stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup, before bowing out 22-25 to Stade Francais at the semi-final stage.
Heineken Cup pedigree: Perpignan have a strong Heineken Cup pedigree reaching the final in 2003 when losing to Toulouse and the semi-final in 2011 when the side lost out to Northampton. Qualified for the Heineken Cup for 10 seasons between 2001 and 2011.
Previous with Munster: Munster secured a quarter-final win over Perpignan in 2006, 19-10, at Lansdowne Road. More recently Munster recorded a home and away double over the French side in 2009, winning 24-23 at Thomond Park before recording a resounding 37-14 success at the Stade Aimee Giral.
Familiar faces: Italian international Tommaso Benvenuti has recently joined the Top 14 outfit. Scrum-half Dewaldt Duvenage (Stormers), winger Wandile Mjekevu and lock Justin Purll (Bordeaux) have already agreed to join Marc Delpoux’s team at the Stade Aimé Giral. Two Perpignan stars, international prop Jerome Schuster and scrum-half David Mele will leave the club for Leicester this summer.
Last season: Finished disappointing 10th of 12 in PRO12 and lost all six pool matches in the Heineken Cup
heineken cup pedigree: Reached semi-final in 2012 before losing to Ulster, but failed to advance from pool last season. Also reached last eight in 2003-04 before losing to Toulouse.
Previous with munster: The sides met for the first time in the Cup last season with Munster winning both games, 33-0 at Thomond Park and 26-17 at Murrayfield.
familiar faces: Prop Allan Jacobsen, hooker Ross Ford, centre Nick De Luca and out-half Greig Laidlaw remain key.
Pool 1 - Leinster, Northampton, Ospreys, Castres
Pool 2 - Toulon, Cardiff Blues, Glasgow, Exeter
Pool 3 -Toulouse, Saracens, Connacht, Zebre
Pool 4 - Clermont, Harlequins, Scarlets, Racing
Pool 5 - Ulster, Leicester, Montpellier, Treviso