17 Apr 14
Wayne Barnes (Eng) will referee Munster's Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulon at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday April 27th.
There is certainly a bit of apprehension in air at the home of the reigning Magners League champions Munster, who last week escaped to Lanzarote to prepare for the next phase in their push for a place in the final four of the regular league season.
It was at this very stage last year that Tony McGahan's squad made their push for the title, picking up 14 of a maximum 15 points while their international players were on RBS 6 Nations duty, and the Aussie coach is hoping for another major push over the next month.
"It was a great idea to introduce the play-off system and Grand Final into the Magners League and there has definitely been an increase in intensity and standard this season," said McGahan.
"It is much harder to win on the road because every team is very strong at home, we discovered that on the opening day of the season at Glasgow Warriors and all five of our defeats to date have come away from home.
"It has been a tough league season so far and it is only going to get harder. The third phase of the campaign, during the 6 Nations, is very important and one in which we made good ground last season.
"Everything is so tight, with only eight points covering the top eight teams, and everyone is looking to knock their rivals out of the play-off zone. We all want a top four finish and the new system means that every team will have something to play for right up to the end of the regular league season.
"Those final four rounds are going to be incredibly intense and cut throat. It is going to be a battle to the death and our eyes are firmly fixed on a top two finish in order to secure a home semi-final.
"We put a lot of store on winning the Magners League title last year because we knew it would be a real test of the strength of our overall squad. The same will be true this season, but we then have the added spice of possibly competing in a knock-out section.
"We're still involved in the Heineken Cup, and that tournament is pretty special to the Munster fans and players, but the Magners League crown is also very important to us. The pressure is mounting and, with only 100 days left to go before the silverware gets handed out, the clock is ticking."
If the Play-Offs were to happen at the present moment the semi-finalists would be: 1st v 4th - Glasgow Warriors v Leinster and 2nd v 3rd - Ospreys v Edinburgh Rugby. The next round of Magners League games takes place this weekend: Friday night sees Glasgow Warriors take on Cardiff Blues, Munster host Edinburgh, and Ulster v Newport Gwent Dragons. On Saturday, Leinster welcome the Scarlets whilst the round concludes on Sunday with Ospreys facing Connacht.