Anthony Foley takes his Munster squad to Bristol’s Memorial Stadium on Tuesday night knowing that anything other than a win will probably see an end to their chances of a place in the British & Irish Cup’s knockout stages.
Munster currently lead Pool B of the British & Irish Cup on 15 points but can be overtaken by Tuesday’s opponents Bristol, who have a game in hand, and by second-placed Llanelli, whose last game is at home to Nottingham.
Munster’s cup coach Anthony Foley knows exactly what is required by his side, saying: “It a very simple equation really as far as we’re concerned. We have to win.
“We fully understood the predicament we were in after we’d lost that opening game against Llanelli (in October). It was cup rugby from there on in. We knew we couldn’t afford another loss and that hasn’t changed.”
The difficulty facing Munster is that this rearranged fixture against Bristol falls in a nine-day Magners League turnaround that stretches the province’s resources and sees them using players who played either last Friday or Saturday and some who will again be required for the game against Aironi next weekend.
“Look, dealing with that is part and parcel of the job. We were disappointed that the game wasn’t played on the original day,” added Foley.
“The pitch was playable, the problem was getting the covers off and the surrounding areas. But we just have to get on with it.
“We have a mix of contracted and Academy players. A lot of quality players. I’m really looking forward to seeing them play and hopefully we’ll give a good account of ourselves.”
Except for that uncharacteristic opening day performance, Foley’s outfit have invariably given a good account of themselves.
They dismissed Melrose and Esher with panache and delivered a gutsy win away in Nottingham, characterised by a marvellous defensive end game.
They will field an entirely new front row from the postponed trip in December, with David Kilcoyne and Duncan Casey combining with New Zealander Peter Borlase.
Meanwhile, five players who were listed as replacements for the postponed game are now in a starting line-up which will be led by lock Billy Holland.
Declan Cusack and Conor Murray form an all-Garryowen half-back pairing, with David O’Callaghan, Brian O’Hara and Paddy Butler lining out in a youthful but seriously talented back row unit.
MUNSTER (v Bristol): Scott Deasy (Cork Constitution); Danny Barnes (Dolphin), Tom Gleeson (Cork Constitution), Troy Smith (Midleton), Sean Scanlon (Cork Constitution); Declan Cusack (Garryowen), Conor Murray (Garryowen); David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians), Duncan Casey (Shannon), Peter Borlase (Dolphin), Billy Holland (Cork Constitution) (capt), Dave Foley (UL Bohemians), David O’Callaghan (Dolphin), Brian O’Hara (UL Bohemians), Paddy Butler (Shannon).
Replacements: Ger Slattery (Young Munster), Darragh Hurley (Cork Constitution), Brian Hayes (Cork Constitution), Kieran Essex (UL Bohemians), Paul Rowley (Shannon), Corey Hircock (Garryowen), Ronan O’Mahony (Garryowen).