Throw away the claculators and the slide rules, the permutations are simple enough, a win, and Munster are through to the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup for a record 12th consecutive season.
A quick trawl through the other Pools will show that Pool 3 will produce two quarter finalists, Clermont and probably Leicester while Pool 6 could also produce a best runner-up in the unlikely event, and it’s highly unlikely that London Irish do a number on Leinster in Twickenham tomorrow. London Irish have managed to do a number on themselves twice in this Pool so they wont reverse the trend.
But as the players have readily pointed out this evening is all about themselves in terms of determining the outcome of this game.
They face a Northampton Saints side who make no bnes about their confidence to become only the second side to lower Munster colours in the Heineken Cup at Thomond Park and Jim Mallinder certainly arrives with an impressive array of talent in the likes of Euan Murray, Juandre Kriger, Courtney Lawes, and the back three of Bruce Reihana and England hopefuls Chris Ashton and Ben Foden.
They also have an impressive unbeaten record and will be buoyed by last weekend’s win over Perpignan, albeit a side shorn of their top players.
For their part Munster look to have run into a nice bit of form. Their performance in the first half against Treviso last weekend was arguably far more impressive than Northampton’s second half against Perpignan when they seemed to get the benefit of the doubt of most 50/50 decisions never mind the try that wasn’t.
But this evening, all that has gone before will count for nowt. What Munster face is an English side, who like Leicester, are far far removed from the flaky sides the English Premiership seems to spawn.
Two good sides, similar in lots of way, tradition,heritage, passion and pride, will go hell for leather from the start in what should prove to be one of the highlights, not of this round, this competition.
Munster: P Warwick; D Howlett, K Earls, J de Villiers, D Hurley; R O’Gara, T O’Leary; W du Preez, D Fogarty, J Hayes; D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell [capt]; A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Wallace. Replacements: D Varley, M Horan, T Buckley, D Ryan, J Coughlan, P Stringer, L Mafi, I Dowling
Northampton Saints: B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey, B Reihana; S Geraghty, L Dickson; S Tongauiha, D Hartley [capt], E Murray; I Fernandez Lobbe, J Kruger; C Lawes, P Dowson, R Wilson. Replacements: B Sharman, A Waller, B Mujati, C Day, N Best, A Dickens, S Myler, C Mayor
Referee: Romain Poite