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Gaffney’s Men to Pick Cherries in The Shed’

Gaffney’s Men to Pick Cherries in The Shed’

As games go, they don’t get any tougher than this. Away from home, against a side in top form, in front of real passionate support,David Mervyn assesses Munster’s chances.

It’s days like this that make this competition such a joy for ERC. Kingsholm, the home of the current Zurich Premiership leaders Gloucester, welcomes Alan Gaffney’s Munster to Pool 2 competition. 11,000 sell-out, on a crisp Saturday afternoon. Ronan O’Gara describes the opposition as a problem’. Coming off the back of a fine 30 point win over Saracens last weekend, new Gloucester coach Nigel Melville has imported the fast’ (James Simpson-Daniel and Marcel Garvey) and supported the furious’ (locals, Phil Vickery and Trevor Woodman) to create a frightening prospect for a rejuvenated Munster. Both sides have played six games this season in respective leagues and lost only one of those. Something has got to give.

Five wins out of six and second in Celtic League Pool A is not a bad return for the former Leinster assistant. Ronan O’Gara has rediscovered his form and strengthens the spine of the province, whose Heineken CV makes impressive reading – ’00 Finalists; ’01 Semi-Finalists; ’02 Finalists. But is it to be this time?p> It would be a very impressive leap on the road to Lansdowne if Gaffney’s men pull this one off. A source from the Gloucester supporters club (who wishes to remain nameless due to his marriage to The Shed’ and his Shed brethren’) points out that Gloucester are due a bad game’. With only one year’s previous experience in the European Cup (Semi-finalists in 2001), the Cherry and Whites might find the crowd getting at them if their usual fare is not served up. To counter that, their backrow is seemingly awesome this year. Their physicality is immense. Ranging from 6′ to 6′ 5, and beefed up to eighteen stone. Local boy, James Forrester is electric around the park and is backed up by the powerful Jake Boer and the barrel chested Junior Paramore. Added to the dour yet effective kicking leg of Gallic outhalf Ludovic Mercier. It’s a mountainous task for the recalled Mick Galwey and his men.

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Albeit a surmountable one. Munster have been climbing for the last four seasons and are Europe’s perennial cliffhangers. Despite the injury to flanker David Wallace, and allied to the recent loss of talented second row Donnacha O’Callaghan, Munster travel with Jim Williams as captain and one new face on the wing, Mossie Lawlor. The home side welcome backs their own captain and veteran England prop Phil Vickery. And name former rugby league star Henry Paul in their squad, although it is not clear whether he has done enough in training to warrant a starting place. The Kiwi wing has been perturbed at being past over for young England flyers Simpson-Daniel and Garvey. Gloucester do have evident strength in depth and can also call on the talents of former England scrumhalf Andy Gomarsall.

Gaffney has said all week that he would be impressed’ if his side triumphed against the heel in Kingsholm. Playing fifteen form players plus the might of The Shed’, is perversely what the men from Mumha thrive on. A win on English soil is precious. Munster might just have to settle for a clean bill of health after what promises to be a ferocious encounter. At least, after it, Gaffney can plan ahead for Round six – Gloucester at home.