And given the run in they face - away to Castres and home to hot-shots Sale Sharks - there can be no arguing with Thornley. Munster face a mountain and a big un at that. They d probably gladly swap places with say Leinster (home to Glasgow, away to a Bath side who haven t managed to score a try at the Rec since Moses was a child). But you pay you money and take your chances and as Thornley correctly points out, As Wasps and Llanelli have demonstrated no one has a divine right to a place in the last eight, not even Munster.
And when you consider that the best Welsh side and one of the best English sides need not one but several miracles to progress, it goes to show how tough it is to progress to the knock-out stages never mind win the cursed thing.
Now there may be an impression abroad that Thornley s colleague in the Sunday Times Stephen Jones does not have a lot of time for either Irish or Munster rugby but he had some very positive things to say about Munster and what they have brought to this competition in his piece in last Sunday s paper.
Talking about the prospect of neither Munster nor Wasps making the play-offs he wrote.
However, it is a considerable irony that the two clubs who, arguably, have done most to put the whole glorious event where it is today stand at the exit door of the competition.
Ever the pragmatist he continued, if they do fail to qualify then it will simply mean that the other teams have been better and deserve to proceed.
I m on record, he reminds us, as believing that they (Munster) lack the extra class to make the playoff team into a champion team. But he continues, Munster s contribution has been highly significant on the field even though they have never won the tournament.
Contending that Munster missed their best opportunity in 2000, he went on to say
Munster s consistency has been remarkable, as has been the maximisation of their resources and collective will. But it is more than that. They have rudely interrupted what otherwise would have been an Anglo-French fest and therefore validated the idea of a Pan-European event. They have provided what is the spiritual home of the Heineken Cup - Thomond Park where they last lost a big game, it seems to me, before the second world war.
And they have also validated the event in another way. For me the strength of any sporting competition lies in its appeal to paying followers. That is why the jacked-up amorphous teams of Scotland and Wales do not excite me.
Munster s travelling army are staggering.
All last week on various websites you found Munster fans arranging to share lifts and make assignations and swap recommendations and take drink on the road between Limerick and Castres.
Jones talked of Munster fans voting with their feet because votes in favour of a passionate relationship with a great sporting institution.
It is he said, ownership of a team by its public, and that is what the best club rugby always, always is.
Jones went on to talk of the permutations and concluded
The other contending clubs will be thrilled if both teams do disappear. It is only in the future, in moments of quiet reflection, that the teams that do proceed to the quarter-finals will realise that they were playing on a solid platform laid down by two of the great institutions.