Next up on our overview of Heineken Champions Cup Pool B teams is Munster Rugby, winners of the competition in 2006 and 2008.
Heineken Champions Cup record
Munster had until recently an amazing record of consistency in EPCR’s leading competition, reaching the semi-finals 14 times.
However, they have only progressed to the final four times – in 2000, when they lost 9-8 to Northampton Saints, in 2002, when they succumbed 15-9 to Leicester Tigers, and those two years when they won the trophy.
That maiden title came via a 23-19 success against Biarritz Olympique 23-19 at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and the second was through a 16-13 triumph over Stade Toulousain at the same venue.
Munster won all four of their Pool B games – beating both Wasps and Castres Olympique home and away – to finish third and advance to the knockout stage.
They battled to a 34-23 aggregate victory over Exeter Chiefs in the round of 16, setting up a blockbuster quarter-final with Stade Toulousain.
The two sides played out a thrilling contest and were still locked at 24-24 following an additional 20 minutes. Toulouse ultimately booked their place in the semi-finals, however, as they triumphed 4-2 in a rare place-kick shoot-out.
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Graham Rowntree replaced Johann van Graan ahead of this season after a three-year stint as Munster’s forwards coach.
The former England prop had guided several teams’ packs prior to the appointment, including England and Georgia’s national sides, the British & Irish Lions and Harlequins.
Leicester Tigers legend Rowntree turned out 54 times for England during his playing days and featured for the Lions on three occasions. He spent the entirety of his career with Leicester, making 59 appearances in EPCR competitions and lifting the Heineken Cup in 2001 and 2002.
Munster have a host of Ireland internationals at their disposal in both the forwards and backs.
Up front, hooker Niall Scannell can form a vastly experienced front row with Dave Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer, while behind them Tadhg Beirne a colossus at lock.
Flanker Peter O’Mahony is a masterful breakdown specialist and is one of several dynamic options in the back row, including Gavin Coombes and Jack O’Donoghue.
In the backs, Conor Murray is a highly experienced scrum-half, while Craig Casey is an exciting young understudy, with Joey Carbery pulling the strings at fly-half. Simon Zebo and Keith Earls are decorated veteran wings, while Tonga’s Malakai Fekitoa is a fresh option at centre for this season.
There is a rerun of last season’s quarter-final, as Munster host Toulouse in their Pool B opener on December 11, with the Irish province at Northampton Saints a week later.
They then welcome Northampton on January 14 before concluding their pool stage with a trip to Toulouse on January 22.