The pride of Ireland and the darlings of Europe will attempt to continue their magical run in which under Declan Kidney, they will look to continue a Heineken Cup decade run that even Toulouse and Leicester cannot boast.
Since 1999, Munster has twice won the championship, reached the final another two times, and reached three semifinals and two quarter finals.
While Munster Coach Tony McGahan has no experience on Europe’s grandest stage, he will have no less than 11 Grand Slammers to execute his master plan against Ospreys, surely the pretenders to the Heineken Cup throne.
The Red army traversed a pool that was not filled with any genuine threats, but did go down to Clermont Auvergne early in December. Still, this was still enough to guarantee them position as the second highest ranked qualifier, and will await on Thomond park’s hallowed turf.
Here, Munster is not only mighty, but will draw on levels of passion that other sides can only shake their head at.
They wait in prime form, having won their last seven matches in all competitions, including a 22-5 thumping of fellow quarter finalists Leinster last week.
Ospreys will have no doubt as to the task awaiting them.
Still, they manufactured a path through arguably the toughest of all the pools. Playing against the Leicester Tigers and Perpignan, they managed to finish with the third best point’s differential of all teams and the second best defensive record of the tournament.
Despite Munster’s decorated history and team full of Grand Slammers, on paper, the Osprey’s are just as strong a side. At full strength they have eight of Wales 2008 Six Nations winners, and are buttressed by New Zealand powerhouse Filo Tialata, and former All Black pilfer Marty Holah.
A near all Wales backline has the added menace of Tommy Bowe, who will likely play with 2008 IRB world player of the year Shane Williams—who the Irishman has shaded as the best winger of the four home unions.
Much though will rest on the shoulders of James Hook and Mike Phillips, both who will look to cement South African touring berths. For Hook in particular, his head to head with O’Gara will likely decide the contest.
For all the doubts over the Irish standoff, there is little hesitation in saying that he is at the front of the line for the position come the June and July tests.
Lee Byrne and Gavin Hensons absence will diminish some of Ospreys attacking and last line defensive systems, and this could be the discrepancy between the outfits.
Ospreys Coach Sean Holley is upbeat, believing that the expectation of Munster waltzing through the clash will be high, considering their status as one of the world’s great provinces, and with the added pressure that comes with the anticipation of being filled with current Grand Slammers.
But while Osprey’s are loaded with such experience themselves, the might of Munster, especially in their pack, will dictate this contest if the Welsh province cannot stand up. If they continue the form shown in the Six Nations, it could well be a Munster tight five that wears Lions colours in a few weeks.
In previous clashes, the Munster men have held the edge, winning both of their previous European championship games in 2004 and 2005. Still, in their clash in the Magners league earlier this year, Ospreys just went down in a tight match 25-21.
Munster Road to the Quarter: W W L W W W
Last match:Munster 39 – 13 Montauban
Ospreys Road to the Quarter: L W W W L W
Last match: Osprey 15 – 9 Leicester
Previous Heineken Cup encounters: Munster 2 – 0 Ospreys
Last match: Saturday 8th January 2005, Pool 4, Munster 20 – 10 Ospreys