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Dan Sheridan
Good End To Busy Week
6 June 2008, 4:22 pm
A week that began with Munster finding out who they'd play in the Pool stages of next season's Heineken Cup ended with the announcement that Tony McGahan will be the person who will lead them into that campaign.
And if it would be hard to come up with a Pool as difficult as the one they emerged from this season, Pool One is deemed one of the two - Leinster's is the other - toughest that emerged from the draw on Tuesday.

Once again Munster meet ASM Clermont Auvergne who will be joined by their French neighbours Montauban and English Premiership side Sale Sharks. It might initially read a bit better than this time last year yet represents a huge challenge when one examines the credentials of the opposition.

Everyone will be only too well aware of the challenge that ASM Clermont Auvergne present. No doubt they will still be bristling over being dumped out of the 07/08 competition when Munster fetch up next season and after finishing top of the French League are set to face Perpignan in the championship semi final on Sunday.

Montauban provides a new French destination for Munster supporters and is relatively easy to get to situated as it is about 70 kilometres north of Toulouse. But that could be all that's easy about the club that finished in seventh place in the League. They were tucked in behind the big names of French rugby but much more significantly the only side to beat them at home this season in the League was Toulouse on a scoreline of 16-12.

Sides that Munster would be well familiar with - Bourgoin (16-11), Biarritz (19-13), Castres (15-12), Perpignan (28-22), Stade Francais (24-16), and Clermont Auvergne (18-16) have all left Montauban's North Power Stadium with tails tucked firmly between their legs.

Sale Sharks are another side Munster will be aware demand the height of respect. They finished just outside the Premiership League play offs, one point behind eventual finalists Leicester Tigers. On top of that they reached the Challenge Cup semi-final beaten 36-14 by a Bath side that went on to lift the trophy.

On their last venture into the Heineken Cup in the Pool stages, they went down by one point to Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium, were beaten 27-16 by Stade Francais in Paris but bounced back the following week to beat the French aristocrats 12-6 in Edgeley Park.

But all that will be far from Munster player's minds today when they gather for the last time before departing to various parts of the world, on well deserved holidays.

Almost the entire squad will assemble in Tipp Town this afternoon to send Alan Quinlan off on his married way, the ever popular Quinlan set to walk down the aisle with Ruth Griffin.

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