Munster's Joey Carbery attempts to get by Danny Cipriani when the sides met in round two
MUNSTER’S hopes of qualifying for the quarter finals of the Heineken Champions Cup for a record 18th time reaches a critical stage this Friday when the two-time winners locks horns with Gloucester at Kingsholm, 7.45pm.
Johann van Graan’s Munster side currently top Pool 2 of the competition on 12 points, three points more than second-placed Castres Olympique and four points ahead of both Exeter Chiefs and Friday’s opponents Gloucester.
Munster will host Exeter in their final pool fixture on Saturday, January 19 at a sold-out Thomond Park at 5.30pm.
In their earlier pool meeting with Gloucester in Limerick last October, Munster scored a 36-22 bonus point win on a day when the ‘Cherry and Whites’ out-half Danny Cipriani was red-carded inside the opening half an hour.
Munster boast an impressive record against Gloucester, winning all five of their most recent European Cup meetings and by a margin of more than 12 points.
Munster head to Gloucestershire on the back of a pulsating 31-24 bonus point win over Connacht at the Sportsground in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday night. The victory took Munster to top spot in Conference A.
Munster head coach Johann van Graan says the degree of excitement inside the squad is high this week as another crucial European Cup fixture looms
Van Graan said: “There’s no lack of motivation or excitement for this week. I think the key from the coaching point of view is to actually hold them back and not to waste unnecessary energy before we take the field on Friday night.
“This is a game all teams love to play in, and that’s why you play in Europe, for these opportunities. Bar maybe two pools, all pools are so evenly poised and it’s literally on a knife-edge, both ways.
“Our pool, the fact that we lost the away one to Castres brought two other teams into it and now over the next two weekends, it’s which one of those four teams play the best within the 80 minutes.
“That’s exciting and if you’re in rugby and in sport you have to embrace these moments. You can’t inspire out of fear. We’ve got to inspire ourselves.
“I’ve never been to that stadium before but what I’ve read and what I’ve heard, it’s an incredible place, it’s a sell-out and it’s Munster versus Gloucester. There’s so much history between the clubs so it will be a fantastic rugby occasion on Friday night.
“I’ve said it so many times before, that’s why I came to the Northern Hemisphere, for days like Friday evening.”