A Saturday afternoon kick-off for a crucial European knockout tie, a great England side coming to Limerick, these are the foundations Munster was built on.
Of particular note is the fact that they will start five points behind Exeter and Munster could not be better placed to write another chapter in their storied Heineken Champions Cup history.
The Fear Factor Thomond Park may not be what it used to be, but on days like this the famous old stadium comes alive.
Munster will need all the help they can to come back from the first leg deficit and their cause will certainly be bolstered when captain Peter O’Mahony, main playmaker Joey Carbery and best finisher Simon Zebo are back in the squad.
Alongside that triple boost, Exeter will be without their key player with Sam Simmonds absent. Nonetheless, this is a dangerous Exeter side capable of repeating last weekend’s 13-8 win at Sandy Park.
After a week in which Munster’s future direction has finally been clarified, the players will be even more eager to impress new head coach Graham Rowntree.
It’s a big day especially for Josh Wycherley, starting for the first time in a European game alongside his older brother Fineen.
The 22-year-old has had a good season and it’s a huge vote of confidence from the coaching staff, including Rowntree, who has worked closely with Wycherley in recent years.
A 2019 U-20 Grand Slam winner, Wycherley already proved he could take on the big boys as he held his own against the might of Rabah Slimani and the Clermont pack.
Exeter will pose a different challenge today but if Munster can beat the fight for set pieces and the collapse they will be good enough to wipe out the visitors’ narrow lead.
O’Mahony’s return is crucial in this regard, as his leadership and nous will help stabilize the ship.
Jack O’Donoghue, last week’s reserve skipper, once again proved his versatility by switching to number 8. Munster will need plenty of forward drive from the Waterford man who is enjoying a superb season.
“That collapse, they really ended up hounding us in terms of their D goal line,” O’Donoghue said of the Exeter threat.
“They have a big pack and a strong back line and for us it’s about being a little more dominant than them in our clashes and in our collapse and giving us a good ball to play out.
“Thomond Park, if you just think about it, you’ll get this buzz, you’ll feel the crowd, but we can’t let that get us down. We have to stay focused.”
Carbery can provide the attacking spark but it’s hard to imagine Munster deviating from the forward-leaning game plan that Johann van Graan held so rigidly to during his tenure.
As they showed last week, Exeter enjoys this kind of physical fight so Munster will need to show a little more ambition if they want to make the last eight.
It would be typical of Munster to find a way to get the job done.
Munster—M. Haley; Earls K, Farrell C, de Allende D, Zebo S; J Carbery, C Murray; J Wycherley, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, F Wycherley; P O’Mahony (Captain), J Hodnett, J O’Donoghue. Representatives: D Barron, J Loughman, S Archer, J Jenkins, T Aherne, C Casey, B Healy, A Kendellen.
Exeter Chiefs – S Hogg; O Woodburn, H Slade, I Whitten, T O’Flaherty; J Simmonds, S Maunder; A Hepburn, J Yeandle (Captain), H Williams; J Gray, S Skinner; Ewers, D, Kristen, J, Vermeulen, J. Representatives: J Innard, B Keast, P Schickerling, R Capstick, S Grondona, J Maunder, T Gilbert-Hendrickson, J Hodge.
Ref – M Raynal (France)
Munster vs Exeter Chiefs,
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https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/champions-cup/proud-day-for-wycherley-brothers-as-munster-eye-spot-in-last-eight-41558275.html Proud day for the Wycherley brothers as Munster eyespot in the last eight