“Hi Boys, that’s us in the final,” chortled an Ulster supporter in a Limerick hotel bar, as the final whistle sounded in Murrayfield yesterday afternoon to signal a first ever Heineken Cup semi final for Edinburgh, against the winners of this afternoon’s clash at Thomond Park Stadium.
Of course it was in jest. Or maybe they may been particularly prescient but in truth there is a huge air of confidence about the travelling support from the north who expect nothing less than victory at Thomond Park Stadium.
Not only will today's winners know who they’re playing, they’ll also know where, and the scramble for tickets will already have begun although the organisers and indeed the stadium officials, though they won’t admit it, will be hoping for a Munster win if they’re to have any chance of a bumper crowd.
The clash today promises to be a truly gripping affair. All the talk is of us Ulster momentum, their performance last time out as opposed to Munster's and of course the fact that Stephen Ferris has been named in the starting XV.
There's an awful lot expected of Ferris who is carrying an ankle injury and has to be rated doubtful to last the 80. There may also be a lot being read into Ulster's last performance although there's no doubting the credentials of a side who have scored 49 League tries to date.
So today then defence will be key and again going back to Rabo form Munster's is one of the meanest. And if there was one aspect of their display against Leinster that may have pleased it was the way they kept thir line intact.
The return ot Paul O'Connell, Donnacha Ryan and Conor Murray is an obvious plus. There's first Cup starts for Felix Jones, Mike Sherry and Tommy O'Donnell and there's the memory of that game in Milton Keynes to remind us of what this Munster team is capable of.
Munster: F Jones; D Hurley, K Earls, L Mafi, S Zebo; R O’Gara, C Murray; W du Preez, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D Ryan, P O’Connell; P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Varley, M Horan, S archer, D O’Callaghan, D Wallace, T O’Leary, I Keatley, J Murphy.
Ulster: S Terblanche; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa; J Muller capt, D Tuohy; C Henry, S Ferris, P Wannenburg. Replacements: N Brady, P McAllister, A Macklin, L Stevenson, W Faloon, P Marshall, N Spence, A D’Arcy.
Referee: Romain Poite (France).