A little like their senior colleagues bound for Toulon, Munster’s British & Irish Cup squad have no room for error in tonight’s British & Irish Cup Pool B clash with Nottingham at Meadow Lane (kick-off 7.45pm).
Defeat will almost certainly mean the end of the road for Anthony Foley’s Munster side as far as qualification for the knockout stages is concerned. They are still playing catch-up after a surprise opening day defeat to Llanelli in Waterford.
Munster’s chances of winning in Nottingham have not been helped by their recent inactivity. The province’s ‘A’ team have not played a game since their December 11 visit to Melrose, but quite a few of the players have had some Magners League game-time.
The experience of Denis Hurley, Barry Murphy, Scott Deasy, Tommy O’Donnell and skipper Billy Holland will be invaluable as they try to close the gap on Pool B leaders Llanelli, who are three points clear at the summit.
Foley’s charges face a Nottingham side that includes New Zealand lock Ali Williams, American centre Junior Sifa, who spent two years with Midleton, and England Sevens player Luke Sheriff.
Add in the likes of former Auckland Blues and Dragons out-half James Arlidge and Tim Streather, who recently arrived from Worcester, and one gets an idea of the size of the task Munster face.
Nottingham are out of contention in the English Championship, but very much in the hunt for a place in the British & Irish Cup quarter-finals and they view tonight’s game as crucial to that end.
MUNSTER (v Nottingham): Denis Hurley; Danny Barnes, Tom Gleeson, Ivan Dineen, Barry Murphy; Scott Deasy, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Sean Henry, Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Dave Foley, Billy Holland (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, Paddy Butler.
Replacements: Duncan Casey, Peter Borlase, David O’Callaghan, Kieran Essex, Duncan Williams, Declan Cusack, Simon Zebo.