Leinster and Munster may have fallen at the quarter-final hurdle, but there will still be a big Irish representation in Sunday’s Heineken Cup final between Leicester Tigers and Wasps at Twickenham.
English heavyweights Leicester and Wasps go head-to-head for European rugby’s premier title on Sunday, with a total of seven Irish players involved in the respective squads.
Full-back Geordan Murphy, scrum half Frank Murphy and flanker Shane Jennings have been named in the Tigers’ starting XV, while lock Leo Cullen and out-half Ian Humphreys, who will interestingly provide scrum half back-up, are both on the replacements for Pat Howard’s side.
There are two Ireland players in the Wasps starting side – scrum half Eoin Reddan and tighthead prop Peter Bracken. The pair are due to link up with Eddie O’Sullivan’s Ireland squad on Tuesday ahead of the first Test against Argentina on Saturday week. Geordan Murphy, Jennings and Cullen are also Buenos Aires-bound, while Frank Murphy and Humphreys are due to link up with the Ireland ‘A’ squad at the Churchill Cup, early next week.
Stepping into the injured Harry Ellis’ shoes for last weekend’s Guinness Premiership final, Corkman Frank Murphy is hoping to help Leicester net a memorable treble of Twickenham final wins this weekend.
Leicester have already won the EDF Energy Cup and Guinness Premiership finals at the home of English rugby in 2007.
Sunday will mark Murphy’s first ever Heineken Cup start – he failed to feature in the competition during his time with Munster and the 25-year-old has only made one European appearance off the bench for the Tigers – against Cardiff in January.
However, Murphy did sample the atmosphere at last May’s Heineken Cup decider at the Millennium when Munster beat Biarritz.
“Munster won it last year and I was in the overall squad but not in the matchday squad so after that it means a lot to me personally to be involved in the final this year,” said Murphy, who was third choice scrum half at Leicester when he arrived last summer.
“I am really looking forward to another big final, a massive occasion obviously and a sell-out crowd at Twickenham. It could be a great way to end our season but obviously we have a job to do and that is what we’re concentrating on.
“With Harry playing so well throughout the season it was always going to be difficult to get into the team, but this is what you have got to aim for playing for Leicester.
“I think I played okay last week (in the Premiership final against Gloucester) – a bit of a shaky start but it went well from there. The forwards made it easy for me and I really enjoyed it. It is something I want to play more in.”
Intriguingly, Murphy’s direct opponent on Sunday will be another ex-Munster scrum half in Eoin Reddan.
“I haven’t spoken with Eoin about the final. We’ll leave the talking until after the game! We were born in Munster, we are both about the same age so we know each other pretty well – it is a battle I’m really looking forward to.”
As if that was not enough to whet your appetite, there will be three more Irishmen on the field on Sunday afternoon in the shape of match referee Alan Lewis and his touch judges Alain Rolland and Simon McDowell. Former international referee David McHugh will also be on Television match official duty.
It is the 42-year-old Lewis’ first time to take charge of a Heineken Cup final. The former Old Wesley out-half has previously refereed two European finals – the 2002 and 2005 Challenge Cup deciders – while he was also the man in the middle for the recent EDF Energy Cup and AIB League Divison One finals.
The 2007 Heineken Cup final kicks off at 2.30pm at Twickenham on Sunday. There will be live coverage of the all-England tie on Sky Sports 2 (2pm), while RTE Two will broadcast extensive highlights later that evening (8pm).
– Best wishes to all those involved in Sunday’s final from IrishRugby.ie –