MUNSTER head coach, Tony McGahan believes Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final opponents Ulster are ‘the real deal’ and expects them to descend on Thomond Park with ‘a lot of confidence.’
Munster will aim to make to make it 10 wins from 13 Heineken Cup quarter-final appearances when they face-off with Brian McLaughlin’s Ulster side at 1.45pm on Easter Sunday.
Two-time European Cup winners Munster stumbled to a disappointing 18-9 RaboDirect PRO12 defeat to arch rivals Leinster in Limerick on Saturday night. McGahan said: “We have placed a big importance on the Heineken Cup this year. That has been proven in our games. Our League form has been inconsistent, but from the Heineken Cup it will be all hands to the wheel this week.
“We certainly have a huge respect for Ulster, certainly for where they have come from and where they are at this point in time. You look at their round six Heineken Cup match against Leicester and their Clermont away game, their RaboDirect form since Christmas where they have picked up four or five bonus point wins.
“They are the certainly the real deal and will come here with a lot of confidence.
“It’s an interesting fact that the sides have not played each other at full strength for a long period of time, so there shouldn’t be the familiarity that exists in the case of Leinster, for instance.”
Munster are hopeful captain Paul O’Connell, scrum-half Conor Murray and the versatile Donnacha Ryan will be available for selection. O’Connell and Murray have received the all-clear to resume training this week after seeing a specialist, while Ryan resumed last week.
Keith Earls, who was forced off with a rib injury against Leinster, is reported to be fit and well ahead of Sunday’s quarter-final.
Of the 60 Heineken Cup quarter-finals staged to date, the home team has won 46 times, with the away side coming out on top on 14 occasions. It means almost 77% of the quarter-finals have gone with home advantage.
Meanwhile, Ian Costello’s Munster ‘A’ side is gearing up for their British & Irish Cup semi-final clash with Leinster ‘A’ at the RDS on Good Friday at 6pm.