MUNSTER centre Denis Hurley insists the province’s failure to qualify for the knock-out stages of the European Champions Cup does not mark the end of an era for the province.
Munster face Sale Sharks in their final pool game of the competition at Thomond Park this Sunday, 3.15pm, with their hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals already over.
Hurley will form a new-look midfield partnership with the fit-again Keith Earls for the visit of the Aviva Premiership side who are yet to win a game in Pool 1.
Former St Munchin’s College star Hurley insists the good times are not over for Munster despite the province’s failure to progress from the group stages of Europe’s top flight club rugby competition for only the second time in 17 years.
Denis Hurley said: “We are professional players in the squad and the management are paid to do a job too. I mean if we believe this is an end of an era, then there is no point in us turning up this weekend or training tomorrow. We have to go forward in the belief that we are good enough players and a good enough squad to perform and to achieve the top levels in Europe.
“We are not a team that will fall away. There are always good players coming through. This season, last season, there are a lot of younger lads who were unheard of. Now all of a sudden their names are the ones on the sheet week in week out. Munster will always have players. I think it is just about competing with the bigger clubs, who have more resources than us, with our heart and soul. That probably gives us the big performances and the drive for big results.
“Last weekend, as disappointing as it was, is a driving point for us this weekend. We know we have to go out and play for each other on the field. We have to back up each other and prove that we are a talented squad. We are a team to be reckoned with. That is the driving force for this weekend.”
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Denis Hurley, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha, Dave Foley, Paul O’Connell, Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Peter O’Mahony (capt). Replacements: Eusebio Guinazu, John Ryan, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Robin Copeland, Ivan Dineen, JJ Hanrahan, Pat Howard.
SALE SHARKS: Luke McLean; Tom Brady, Andy Forsyth, Mark Jennings, Tom Arscott; Nick Macleod, Will Cliff; Alberto de Marchi, Tommy Taylor, Ross Harrison, Andrei Ostrikov, Josh Beaumont, Mark Easter, David Seymour (capt), Viliami Fihaki. Replacements: Cameron Neild, James Flynn, Ciaran Parker, George Nott, Andrew Hughes, Nathan Fowles, Joe Ford, Mike Haley.
REFEREE: Marius Mitrea (Italy)