From day one it was always going to be the most likely scenario – Munster against London Wasps at Thomond Park in Round 6 for the Pool 5 honours.
Munster, the 2006 champions, will face 2007 and defending Heineken Cup holders Wasps in Limerick on Saturday evening with Wasps three points clear of Munster with ASM Clermont Auvergne a further point adrift.
Looking ahead to the game, Munster flanker Alan Quinlan said: “We have known for a long time that winning against Wasps was going to be a must in order to get through the pool so nothing has really changed.
“This was always going to be the crunch game of the pool so we have had plenty of time to prepare mentally for it – we just need to make sure we keep our focus. Wasps obviously have a lot of big name players and won the competition last year.
“I’m sure they’ll be looking at Leicester’s victory in Limerick last year and come to Thomond Park looking for the victory. Wasps will come with a lot of confidence – they’re a quality side but we are at home and will be looking forward to it.
“If you’d told us that we’d be looking at qualification needing a win at Thomond Park in the last round at the start of the season, we’d have taken that too as it’s an unbelievably hard group.
“If you look at Llanelli who have been in the mix for a number of years and haven’t featured at all this year, it really shows the quality of the sides in this pool. It’s going to be a big game and an intense game but we’ve trained hard and are ready for the next challenge,” he added.
Munster’s comeback against Clermont Auvergne last weekend earned them a vital losing point in a 26-19 defeat and was a huge blow to the French side’s ambitions.
Quinlan admitted: “We had a poor first half against Clermont. If you’d have said at half-time that we would come away with the losing bonus point and stop Clermont getting the winning bonus point, we would have happily taken that so we have to be pleased with the result given the performance in the first half.
“There’s a lot of belief in this team and we are able to grab any lifeline we can see in order to stay in this competition. You are always disappointed to lose a game and obviously we went to Clermont to win the game and try and get ourselves in a better position to secure our qualification against Wasps.
“We firmly believed that we were capable of achieving that, but this is a really tough pool and we are just happy to be in the running. It’s well documented how hard the pool would be from the start.
“Clermont are very strong side and are capable of beating any team in this competition so to come out of our game in France with our destiny in our own hands was a great result for us.”
Commenting on his own game and preparations for the Wasps game, the Ireland international admitted: “I’ve been out a lot with injury but I’m going to take my opportunity of being back in the squad and take nothing for granted. There are a lot of sore bodies in the side and with the short turnaround, our recovery and focus is going to be crucial in preparing for the Wasps game.”