19 May, 11:13
There are six uncapped players in the Ireland squad for the summer tour to North America that was named this morning. An Emerging Ireland squad has also been selected for the Tblisi Cup in Georgia.
With last season's success admittedly behind them, Declan Kidney has promised that Munster will be as "hungry and committed as ever" when the 2006/07 Heineken Cup starts next week.
Speaking at this week's Heineken Cup launch in London, the Munster coach was evidently confident of another successful run in Europe, adding that he has had little to do in fixing the players' minds onto the task of retaining the title.
The Corkman said: "I haven't had to say a word on the matter - the players have said it all themselves. In fact, one of the first things they said in the dressing room in Cardiff after the final against Biarritz was that this can never be allowed to be the end. That is not what Munster Rugby is about.
"The team and the backroom staff have trained and worked too damn hard over years and years to let all that good work fade away just because we were finally able to win the trophy last season. That was great, but that was May 20, 2006. We have all moved on."
So what can the legions of Munster supporters expect from their province's 2006/07 model?
"We will be out there competing, as hungry and committed as ever. That is what Munster Rugby demands," insisted Kidney.
"There are absolutely no guarantees about succeeding in the competition - after 11 years, we know better than most just how hard it is to win the European Cup - but I can promise that there will be no lessening of intensity and purpose."
Munster have Leicester Tigers, Bourgoin and Cardiff Blues for company in Pool 4, and they begin their title defence away to Pat Howard's Tigers on Sunday week (Welford Road, kick-off 3pm).
Looking at the challenges facing his side in the pool stages, Kidney added: "Away to Leicester is one of the more difficult starts, a bit like last year in fact, when we just lost out to Sale on the first Friday night. The defeat didn't hurt us in the end, though losing more than one pool match is not a good idea. You can qualify with two defeats out of the six games but you almost certainly end up seeded seventh or eighth and face a tough away draw in the quarter-finals.
"With Cardiff hitting good form with two wins over tough English opponents in recent weeks, and Bourgoin in the mix as well, ours is going to be a really competitive pool. Just getting out of it is going to need a major effort.
"We've seen in the past that teams who have won the competition have sometimes struggled to maintain those standards and the way it is growing, maintaining standards is not enough. It is an incredibly tough competition."