A dog joins the Munster players at a squad training session at UL North Campus on Monday
MUNSTER captain Peter O'Mahony believes the side has improved in the 12 months since their Heineken Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Racing 92 in Bordeaux.
Munster return to Champions Cup semi-final action this Saturday when Johann van Graan's charges tackle Gallagher Premiership giants Saracens in a glamour clash at Coventry's Ricoh Arena, 3pm.
Captain O'Mahony said: "We put in a lot of work over the past 12 months and I think that we are a different animal to what we were; further down the track.
"Don’t get me wrong we are under no illusions as to how it is going to be. We are definitely a better side that we were last year. That gives us great confidence. We have big battles this year, games in which we have gone behind, big games that we have ground out; a draw in Exeter.
"You don’t look back a huge amount but they are things that you draw strength on over a season to gather that momentum and confidence. We have built nicely but it all counts for nothing unless you perform at the weekend. That’s what we are looking for, a performance.
"We know that if we perform as well as we can we can mix it with the best but these guys and Leinster are the best, Toulouse, you know what I mean.
"They are three of the biggest names in Europe without a shadow of a doubt. It’s not really a surprise that they are back in semi-finals. For us to be here to get another shot is exactly where we want to be talking about at this time of the year.
"Again it is going to have to be our best to be mixing it (with those teams)."
Skipper O'Mahony said he was very impressed with what he had seen of the Saracens players during the Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017.
O'Mahony said: "I have to say I was very impressed with the English players across the board. The Saracens players, across the board, were very impressive with regard to their thinking of the game, forward-thinking, game plan thinking. I was very impressed.
"Does it give you an insight? Yeah, it gives you an insight into how good they can be mentally and their thought process on the game, which is useful in some ways. In other ways, you know how good these guys really are behind their performances.
"You see it at the weekend, but how they think about the game and their philosophy. I think they have a good club. They have some very good structures, some good guys on the pitch leading it and a great coaching staff.
"You certainly get a good insight into it and I was very impressed with it. You learn a huge amount from the way they approach the game and how they implement it. You see that at the weekends and it's very impressive.