19 Jun, 06:50
A single point separated the sides as a hard-fought 5th-8th place play-off finished in France's favour at Stade Henri Desgrange on Tuesday night. Check out some photos from Ireland's fourth IRB Junior World Championsip match.
Donnacha Ryan misses out due to a hamstring injury, but head coach Tony McGahan has no other injury worries as Munster bid to salvage some pride against London Irish and qualify for the Amlin Challenge Cup's knockout stages.
Last Sunday's defeat in Toulon marked Paul O'Connell's first Heineken Cup appearance in twelve months, and the province's regular captain admits that the team is 'at a crossroads.'
"There's nothing you can do in a week than can transform everything. All you can do is work hard. That's what we'll do on Saturday," he said.
"We'll keep working hard through it, make sure players are working as hard as they have all season. I would reiterate how hard guys have worked. It's been phenomenal.
"It's just a small dip in form that's been backed up in a few games. Normally we haven't put bad performances together and now we probably have done that in a few big games.
"As a team, we're at a crossroads. We need to figure what we're doing in terms of how we're playing. We're not putting in the big performances as often as we'd have liked and we need to figure that out and improve what we're doing, individually as players and as a team.
"Certainly the age profile is older than what it was in the past but I think there's plenty left in a lot of players."
O'Connell added: "Every team has mileage on the clock and players with a lot miles on the clock. The desire in training is every bit there as it was when I came into the squad, probably more after the way things have gone after the last few years.
"The effort put in by the coaching staff is nothing short of phenomenal, it would put me off coaching nearly, the amount of hours those guys put in."
The big prize may be gone for another year, but the men in red remain top of the pile in the Magners League and they could yet enter the race to lift the Amlin Challenge Cup. A win on Saturday would be the first step on that road.
"It's a home European Cup game at Thomond Park, and a lot of the players feel we owe the supporters a lot, a big performance. That's where our motivation will be coming from at the weekend," concluded O'Connell, who made his European bow back in 2001.
MUNSTER Squad (v London Irish) - Backs (12): Tomas O'Leary, Peter Stringer, Scott Deasy, Ronan O'Gara, Johne Murphy, Sam Tuitupou, Tom Gleeson, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley, Doug Howlett, Paul Warwick.
Forwards (14): Wian du Preez, Darragh Hurley, Tony Buckley, John Hayes, Mike Sherry, Damien Varley, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell, Mick O'Driscoll, Ian Nagle, Niall Ronan, James Coughlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.