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Munster Face “Huge Challenge”, Says Kidney

Munster Face “Huge Challenge”, Says Kidney

Munster coach Declan Kidney knows his side will have to come through arguably the toughest Heineken Cup draw in the province’s history if they are continue their incredible run of knockout stage appearances.

Munster’s 24-15 defeat to Llanelli Scarlets in March marked their ninth successive appearance in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, but Kidney’s men will have to dig deep to pull themselves out of difficult Pool 5 next season.

The current Heineken Cup champions Wasps, Clermont Auvergne, who claimed the European Challenge Cup title last month, and Celtic rivals Llanelli will provide Munster with a stiff test in the pool stages of the 2008 tournament.

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Reacting to today’s draw, Kidney said: “Firstly, after all the doubt of whether or not the competition would go ahead, it’s great that it is.

“In terms of the draw itself, we’ve landed ourselves a very tough one with the title holders Wasps, the up and coming French side in Clermont Auvergne who were just beaten in the French championship final, and then Llanelli Scarlets whose record in the competition speaks for itself – never mind the fact that they put us out of the competition last season.

“So it’s going to be a huge challenge and to that end I believe the Magners League assumes even greater importance because it will serve as the ideal preparation for those matches,” he added.

“In the competitive sense, I have no doubt whatsoever that the Magners League will leave us and the other provinces (Leinster and Ulster) right for the challenge that the Heineken Cup presents.”

Munster have never played Clermont, while last season’s quarter-final loss to Llanelli at Stradey Park was the province’s first ever European clash with the Welsh outfit.

Munster do have history with Wasps – they beat the Londonders 49-22 at Thomond Park in 1996, but the sides’ last meeting – that famous 2004 semi-final at Lansdowne Road – went the way of the English club.