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Munster Head Coach Tony McGahan
On the Road Again
7 July 2008, 11:22 am
By Mark Woods
The race is on as Munster fans scramble for the most cost effective way of supporting the Heineken Cup champions in defence of their title next season.
Details of the dates, times and venues for four of the six pool games have been made public and the planning has started in earnest.

Plotting a route for the Sale game in Stockport on Sunday October 19 shouldn't be too difficult because Munster played there in the 2005-06 season, so it's just a matter of retracing old tracks.

And the second visit to Montferrand for the eagerly-awaited Clermont Auvergne tie on Sunday December 7 is simply a repeat of last season's adventure.

Still, Munster supporters could be forgiven for thinking someone's out to get them after being handed two more away Sunday games, especially the trip to France.

Oh those Monday morning blues!

Overall, though, Munster will be satisfied with the programming, starting at home to newcomers Montauban and concluding with the return game over there.

The norm has been for Munster to begin on the road and wrap up matters at home, but not this time.

It happened in the 2004-05 season as well, when Munster set-out with a home tie against Harlequins and finished up by playing them at Twickenham, qualifying for an away quarter-final to Biarritz in San Sebastian.

New coach Tony McGahan is excited about the opening game against Chabal and company which will revive memories of Munster's 31-9 victory in 2006.

"It's going to be our first home game on a Friday night and a new-look Thomond Park will be a new experience for everybody involved, players, management and supporters.

"I'm sure everyone will want to leave an imprint that night," he said.

McGahan admitted the away fixtures won't suit the travelling red army.

"Two Sunday games wouldn't be the preferred choice, but it's something that's out of our control.

"Our supporters' preference would be for Saturday, but that's not the case.

"Getting home to work on Monday from a Sunday game in France presents a lot of hassle for our fans.

"Yet, their willingness and eagerness to support the team and the Munster brand never ceases to amaze and I'm sure they will find a way to be there.

"Overall we're more than happy to go along with the ERC schedule."

Sale and Clermont will be familiar opponents, but Montauban are an unknown quantity at this stage.

As always, though, there will be no easy games and qualification for a record 11^th consecutive quarter-final is sure to be another roller-coaster ride.

"Sale have recruited well and they're a progressive club, while Clermont are very well organised and very well coached. We know their strengths as they probably know ours.

"People said they showed disrespect to Munster and the Heineken Cup last season at Thomond Park (they fielded well below full-strength), but I don't believe that was the case.

"They've to juggle with a long Top 14 season in France and I know their coach Vern Cotter has great respect for both Munster and the tournament itself.

"It's probably safe to say Clermont will have a stronger team for their next visit to Thomond.

"Travelling to Montauban is going to be a different experience for us.
"They've had two solid seasons in the Top 14 and kicked on from there to fully deserve their place in the Heineken Cup," McGahan concluded.

That's pencilled in for the weekend of January 23-25. Details won't be known until later in the year, but what's the betting on it being a Sunday fixture?

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