Munster backs coach Jason Holland conceded that the province have a pretty difficult roster of games coming up, even before they can contemplate the prospect of taking on the Ospreys in a heavyweight Heineken Cup quarter-final.
Tuesday’s Heineken Cup semi-final draw at Murrayfield, the venue for May’s final, have given defending champions and Pool 1 winners Munster the chance to secure a home semi-final against either Harlequins or Leinster.
With Munster backs coach Jason Holland and injured centre Rua Tipoki in attendance, the draw was a favourable one for the men in red.
Should they beat the Ospreys in their April 12 quarter-final at Thomond Park, they will have ‘home country advantage’ against the winners of the Harlequins versus Leinster quarter-final.
Munster have recaptured their form in recent weeks. They played some of their best rugby for some time in bonus point wins over Sale Sharks and Montauban which eased them through to the tournament’s last-eight as second seeds.
Speaking immediately after the draw, Holland was playing down the prospect of an all-Irish date in the last-four.
“There’s the not so little matter of the game against the Ospreys to consider first,” he explained.
“They’re a class side with something like 15 of the Welsh squad plus the likes of Nikki Walker, Marty Holah and Filo Tiatia. That’s a pretty awesome bunch.
“There’s a lot of rugby to be played before then. We have Magners League games against Edinburgh, Dragons, Glasgow and Leinster, so once we have them out of the way we’ll switch the focus to the Heineken quarters-finals.”
Ospreys boss Sean Holley was also in attendance at the home of Scottish rugby and he was pleased his players will venture to Limerick with the reward of a home semi-final dangling over them.
“The opportunity of having a home semi-final is just unbelievable,” he said.
“But first we have to get past Munster and we are under no illusions regarding the quarter-final task ahead of us.
“This is a one-off game and we have had close encounters with them over there.”
Indeed, Munster and the Ospreys met earlier this month in the Magners League. Tony McGahan’s men prevailed on a 25-21 score-line at the Liberty Stadium, with centre Lifeimi Mafi and scrum half Tomas O’Leary helping themselves to tries.
Both Mafi and O’Leary touched down in last Sunday’s five-try 39-13 win at Montauban and Mafi’s regular centre partner Rua Tipoki, who is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, is eager to get back into a side that is brimming with confidence.
Reacting to the semi-final draw, Tipoki said: “In the Heineken Cup the first priority is always to have the chance of a home match, so we are hugely pleased with that. It is a great opportunity for us.
“However the Ospreys will be tough in the quarters because they have top players all over the field, but we have got everything to play for.”
Munster won five of their six pool matches, gaining a losing bonus in their only defeat away to Clermont Auvergne.
Tipoki knows that the province can ill-afford to be off colour when the Ospreys come to town in April.
“In the pool stages we had some really tough games against Sale and Clermont Auvergne, which have hopefully put the team in good stead now for the quarter-final.
“All the teams (left in the tournament) are really good but Ospreys are a team we’ve got a lot of respect for and we actually like the way they play the game.
“They use the ball well and use the space well so we’re definitely going to have our hands full in the quarter-final, but hopefully the Thomond Park crowd can bring us home.”.