Munster on brink of Champions Cup qualification 

John Hodnett enjoyed a fine URC outing with Munster last weekend.

MUNSTER appear in peak form ahead of their home Heineken Champions Cup pool fixture with Northampton Saints at Thomond Park on Saturday.

Back-to-back competition wins over the Saints would all but guarantee progression to the final 16 for Graham Rowntree’s ever-improving side. 

The Reds enter the weekend on the back of a resounding URC bonus point victory over Emirates Lions, which means a current competition play-off berth.

Of his team’s improvement following a shaky start to the season, Rowntree commented: “It’s all week by week. We’ve changes a lot here and we’re a little tidier in discipline. The first few weeks were difficult, but it hardened us. And now going into Europe selection will be a challenge.”

Worthy of significant note is that Munster are now five wins from seven starts since the end of the November International window.

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John Hodnett, the star performer in Cork, added: “We’re trying to get better with our skills every week. Scott Buckley did unreal when he came on, the same for Cian Hurley in the second-row, you could mention a few other lads.”

At the weekend, the Saints missed an opportunity to climb into the Premiership’s top three when Phil Dowson’s side went down 35-12 at Exeter Chiefs.

Of the upcoming cluster of fixtures against Munster, Stade Rochelais and Leicester, scrum-half Callum Braley told his club’s website: “We’ve spoken a lot about this block of games and this really is a massive part of our season. To get a result away from home is our focus, and then off the back of that we’re into two massive games in Europe that are going to be massive challenges for us.” 

“We’re in a very exciting block of games, we’re going to be really tested as a group to stick to our guns and stick to our plan. Hopefully we can do that.”

On Sunday week, Munster’s European adventure continues in Toulouse before the month closes out with a URC outing at Benetton on January 28. 

Saturday’s game kicks-off at 3.15pm, with a limited number of stand tickets available.