DEFEAT for Munster tonight and there will be no tomorrow.
Saturday’s European Champions Cup showdown with English heavyweights Leicester Tigers at Thomond Park is as close to season defining in December as you are going to get. Kick-off at Thomond Park is 7.45pm, with the game being televised live on BY Sport.
Last season’s shock home Champions Cup pool loss proved it - if Munster lose at home to Leicester in the European Cup for the second time in eight years, then the province can all but kiss goodbye to their hopes of making the knock-out stages.
Munster must travel to Welford Road to face the Tigers in the second of their back-to-back pool fixtures on Sunday week, December 20 at 5.15pm.
Leicester currently top Pool 4 of the Champions Cup with a maximum 10-point haul from their two pool fixtures to date. Munster scored a bonus point win in their opening Champions Cup fixture against Treviso, but the province’s scheduled tie with Stade Francais last month was postponed due to the terrorist attacks in Paris. The game has now been rescheduled to take place at Stade Jean Bouin in Paris on Saturday, January 9 at 4.45pm Irish time.
Munster became the first side ever to win a European Cup tie at Thomond Park in 2007. The defeat prevented Munster from securing a home quarter-final in the competition and the province went on to lose their away quarter-final tie with the Scarlets. Munster have won 62 of their 66 home fixtures in the European Cup.
Thomond Park will welcome its one millionth European Cup supporter through the turnstiles at this Saturday’s European game. The Limerick venue hosted Munster’s first European encounter in November 1995 against Swansea
Bookmakers had installed Munster as long odds-on favourites at 4/11 to win Saturday’s game. However, that price had drifted to 8/13 by Wednesday.
Saturday night’s Round 3 clash is being televised live on BT Sport. French official Romain Poite will referee the game. Munster go into the game on the back of successive defeats in the Guinness Pro12 at home to Connacht and away to the Dragons.
Munster captain CJ Stander said: “These weeks just pick everyone up. There is an intensity in training. We say this every European week, but there is a lift in intensity. In mental preparation, there is a lift in every individual.
“Everyone just expects the best out of every player in these last two weeks everyone has been taking a deep look at themselves and they know what went wrong. We are going to go forward this weekend.”
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, BJ Botha, Dave Foley, Donnacha Ryan, Robin Copeland, Dave O’Callaghan, CJ Stander (capt). Replacements: Mike Sherry, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Mark Chisholm, Jack O’Donoghue, Tomas O’Leary, Tyler Bleyendaal, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
LEICESTER TIGERS: Telusa Veainu; Adam Thompstone, Matt Smith, Seremaia Bai, Vereniki Goneva; Owen Williams, Ben Youngs; Marcos Ayerza, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Graham Kitchener, Mike Fitzgerald, Ed Slater (capt), Brendon O’Connor, Lachlan McCaffrey. Replacements: Harry Thacker, Matias Aguero, Fraser Balmain, Dom Barrow, Tom Croft, Sam Harrison, Tommy Bell, Gonzalo Camacho.
REFEREE: Romain Poite (France)