URC is alive and well in 2024

Munster’s Connor Murray attempting to power through the Lions defence in Johannesburg. Photo: Shaun Roy.

WITH all Irish provinces perched in the top eight, there is reason to believe that any two of them could meet in the quarterfinals of this season’s URC in a few weeks’ time. And Munster will play a big hand in that.

Munster will play derby games at Thomond Park, first against Connacht on May 11 and Ulster in the final fixture of the league on June 1. Sandwiched in between for the holders will be a visit to Edinburgh, who are currently just outside the knockout qualifiers.

Munster certainly took their trip to South Africa to heart.

There, the visitors beat the Stormers in Cape Town in last year’s final, and have now followed that achievement this season with bonus point wins over both the Bulls and the Lions.

Considering all that is involved in traveling to South Africa, this achievement is beyond belief.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Speaking at the weekend, coach Graham Rowntree epitomised the spirit of this Munster squad: “Spending two weeks at altitude is not easy, and not many visiting clubs have achieved our two bonus wins in this competition. We had a plan, and we stuck to it.”

“I was delighted with our scrum and our power game came off. We drill a lot, we are a possession team, and we have tremendous leaders. We have a rest week now and we’ll take every game as it comes from now until the end of the season. We like coming to South Africa. We have good memories of it.”

Skipper Tadhg Beirne, referring to the quarterfinal defeat in the Investec Cup, said: “We took a lot of learning from the Northampton defeat and we have not lost a league game since January 1.”

“The plan was to take our points in this game against the Lions and I thought our composure was excellent.”

It is going to be a nail-biting run-in for URC teams with top eight ambitions.

While Munster (third) thrived in South Africa, Leinster lost both of their fixtures and Leo Cullen’s side have dropped to second (behind Glasgow Warriors) in the table.

Overall, the BKT URC has been a great success this season, both on and off the field, and it’s going to be an interesting last three rounds.