10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Granted, everyone who has supported them thus far should be accomodated but the appeal of this side stretches far beyond Macroom, Clonakilty or Bruff. Long before the ERC made their announcement on ticket policy, the phones of Munster officials and those even vaguely associated with the team were hopping with 'see what you can do' requests from those outside the province. And indeed from those within the province anxious to ensure that all angles were covered.
It is quite extraordinary to think that the May 25th final will break all attendance records with the 72,500 capacity Millennium Stadium expected to be sold out - and within hours of the remaining tickets going on sale.
Accepting that Leicester are a superbly supported team, it is still the demand to cheer on Munster that will fill the remaining space. The final despairing plea for tickets, as kick-off nears will come from those desperate to don the red jersey.
The allure of the side surpasses that of the national side and can only be compared - albeit in relative terms - to that other Red phenomenon, Manchester United.
Up to 10,000 made their way to Beziers, some at great financial cost, "we'll worry about paying for it when we get back" offered one middle aged couple before the game, while later that night a pensioner, in Cork Airport to greet the team on their return vowed, "I don't know how I'll get there (Cardiff) but I'll be there". I still wonder what happened to the jockey of the 76LK scooter spotted outside Fitzpatriicks pub in Beziers on the Thursday night before the game.
Explaining it all probably requires a book. If the team were to be compared to other sportsmen they'd probably be more a Pat Taffe than a Richard Dunwoody. Where others glitter they graft. And they show an appreciation for their support that is neither false nor patronising. Mick Galwey, being dragged from the field to do the post match interview implored his handler, "let this be quick, I want to go back out to them". Peter Stringer, standing alone in the middle of the pitch saluting the crowd, gazing in wonderment at the sea of cheering red refused (briefly) the request to return to the dressing room, "Who would ever want to leave this." he asked.
Stringer stood alone. And watched. And smiled. Then shook his head and left to join his teammates. Stood Alone ??
Alone They Stand