Following the draw in Zurich, Munster supporters can now anticipate home and away encounters against Saracens, Clermont and Sale in the pool stages of the new competition. So time to renew hostilities with old foes as we have no new opponents to face in the pool stages this season. It is being called a pool of death as it features three of the semi-finalists from this season. Bonus points will be crucial as all teams are capable of taking points off each other! With only 5 pools it does mean that the 3 pool runners up will also qualify for the knock-out stages.
Match Schedule according to the LNR:
Nothing on the official site yet but I expect we will know more in July. In the meantime I saw these dates mentioned on the Munsterfans forum:
Pool Stages: (1) 17-19 Oct , (2) 24-26 Oct , (3) 5-7 Dec , (4) 12-14 Dec , (5) 16-18 Jan , (6) 23-25 Jan .
Knock out stages: Quarter finals 4-5 April, Semi-finals 18-19 April with the Final on the much earlier date of 1-2 May. If accurate it will be difficult for teams to hit the ground running after the Six Nations and difficult for supporters to make arrangements to travel to the semi-finals given the shorter time to make arrangements.
Having one less pool than the old European Cup competition made the draw more complicated, with the odds of having two French or English teams in your pool increased.
EPCR pool draws – key principles
- The 20 clubs are divided into four tiers based on their qualification position from their Leagues. This will be done where necessary by a draw.
- Each of the five pools will have at least one club from each of the three Leagues.
- Each of the five pools will have one club from each of the four tiers.
- There will be no more than two clubs from the same League in a pool.
- No pool will contain two Pro12 clubs from the same country.
- Clubs from the same League will be kept apart until the allocation of the Tier 4 clubs.
The five pools are:
Pool 1: Saracens, Munster, Clermont, Sale
Pool 2: Leinster, Castres, Harlequins, Wasps
Pool 3: Toulon, Leicester, Ulster, Scarlets
Pool 4: Glasgow, Montpellier, Bath, Toulouse
Pool 5: Saints, Racing, Ospreys, Treviso
In the meantime on the rugby front I am enjoying the Junior World Cup and was delighted I got up to watch the game against Wales at 6.30am last Friday morning. A strong start with excellent passing and exciting line breaks saw Ireland 2 tries up within 12 minutes from Rory Burke and Garry Ringrose but then Wales came back into it and when Peter Dooley was sinbinned Wales took advantage and brought the score to 14-17 just before half-time. A second yellow card soon after half time, this time against Alex Wootton for a dangerous tackle was also capitalised on by Wales who took the lead 21-17 but Ireland still managed to retain possession and went on to score 2 more tries for a valuable bonus point – a second try for Garry Ringrose and the last one scored by Cian Kelleher who had also scored Ireland’s only try in the pool game against France.
While the France game had not been so high scoring or free flowing the losing bonus point earned made all the difference in the competition as it meant that Ireland would qualify for the last 4 if they could secure a bonus point win over Fiji in the final pool game.
That sounded feasible in theory since Wales and France had both secured 5 points against Fiji in their pool games. However, in horrible wind and rain the Irish team took some time to breakdown the Fijians. Repeatedly they spurned the chance to kick penalties for points as they were committed to scoring tries. However, repeated infringements lead to three yellow cards for the Fiji side on 30, 36 and 39 minutes, leaving them without their numbers 8, 7 and 1 respectively. Ireland took full advantage scoring two penalty tries against the decimated Fiji pack before the break. On 48 minutes Ciaran Gaffney found space to score again under the posts. Garry Ringrose had no problem converting to bring Ireland to 24-0 with over half an hour left to score the crucial fourth try. Worryingly Rory Burke and Dan Goggins went off injured before the replacement for Burke, Oisin Heffernan thought he had scored. The TMO ruled otherwise but Ireland remained camped on the 5m line and again showed their dominance in the scrum to force Fiji back. Jack O’Donoghue would have scored but the referee had seen enough to award the third penalty try and all important bonus point. There was still time for a fifth try, this time from replacement flyhalf Conor McKeon.
So it will be another early start on Sunday to watch the WolfPuppies team take on England in the semi-final, live on TG4 at 6.05am.
Finally, for those like me who enjoy the haka this one was different as New Zealand and Samoa had a “haka-off”!
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