Champions Cup time in Limerick

Edwin Edogbo brushes off Glasgow Warriors’ Sintu Manjezi to score a diving try in Musgrave Park last weekend. Photo: Eóin Noonan

FROM the very first Heineken Cup competition in the 1995/1996 season, Munster and their enthusiastic Red Army have taken the yearly challenge to heart.

The final in that inaugural year saw Toulouse beat Cardiff 21-18 and was the last game played in the famous Cardiff Arms Park before it was replaced by the Millennium Stadium.

Nearly 30 years later, Munster will be trying to add a third success to their achievements of 2006 and 2008. Going on their performances in their last two URC outings, they will be one of the favourites.

Munster’s display against the Glasgow Warriors at the weekend was intense. It was fluent rugby and by half time the bonus point had been secured. John Hodnett and Tom Ahern have made their mark and it will be interesting to see if they are retained in their starting places for this weekend cup opener with Aviron Bayonnais at Thomond Park (5.30pm).

The Champions Cup remains one of the most exciting competitions in rugby and this season there are some changes from its usual formation, mainly the change from Heineken to Investec.

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It will start with 24 teams who will be fighting for a place in the last 16. Munster are in Pool 3 with RC Toulon, Exeter Chiefs, Glasgow Warriors, Northampton Saints, and Aviron Bayonnaise.

The French side are having a bumpy season so far in their French 14. They got off to a good start with a win over Paris, lost to Claremont 46-14, beat Pau 35-16, lost to La Rochelle 18-15, and Lyon 42-29 and last weekend they will be boosted for their trip to Limerick after they beat Montpeliere away 19-34.

Home side head coach Graham Rowntree will have to make some difficult decisions for this crucial opener.

Depending on the fitness reports, we may see him stick with Edwin Edogbo in the second-row and Ahern in the back row.

All will be revealed by lunchtime on Friday but whatever starting 15 (which will not include injured pair Peter O’Mahony and Jean Kleyn) he entrusts with the responsibility of a home victory, and maybe a winning bonus point, Munster will strive for victory at the final whistle.