NO discussion can take place about the URC quarter-final clash with the Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun on Saturday evening without mentioning the substantial elephant in the room, Munster’s 26-38 defeat at the hands of their Scottish rivals just six weeks ago at Thomond Park.
The final scoreline actually does not look too ugly but the real story that night was how Glasgow simply blew Munster away on their own patch, leading 0-28 at half-time.
Since then the wagons have been circled, and Munster have potentially rescued their season with two brilliant displays in South Africa, where they scalped reigning URC champions the Stormers, before coming from 22-3 to draw with their Champions Cup conquerors, the Sharks, a week later in Durban.
A play-off berth was secured, as well as Champions Cup qualification for next year – the question now though is whether Munster can kick on and challenge for that first piece of silverware since 2011.
Glasgow have not lost a home fixture since losing to La Rochelle in January 2022, with them going 17 games undefeated at Scotstoun since, in a run that has also seen them win nine in a row in the league both home and away, including that victory in Limerick, while also reaching the Challenge Cup final.
However, Munster recently ended the Stormers' long-running 19-game winning home streak in Cape Town, so a record like that should not phase them one iota.
Munster will be hoping that the upcoming Challenge Cup Final against Toulon will prove a distraction for Franco Smith’s side, while the return to training of Tadhg Beirne means that Rowntree might actually be able to field his first-choice pack for the first time.
He has never been able to field Beirne, RG Snyman, Jean Kleyn, Peter O’Mahony and Gavin Coombes together in the same game, while Niall Scannell and Romain Salanoa are also available again.
For the first time in ages, Munster actually have multiple options in the front and second rows, and potentially the power to match the biggest sides in Europe. The defensive issues that Glasgow exploited so ruthlessly six weeks ago appear to have been plugged, but Saturday will prove the biggest test of that notion yet.
If Munster can limit Glasgow’s brilliant attacking game then they will have gone a long way towards setting up a potential semi-final clash with rivals Leinster at the Aviva Stadium later this month.