The defending champions go to Donnybrook next Friday night (7.35pm) to face arch rivals and 2002/03 winners Leinster Lions, with the former Australian back row star relishing the prospect of the all-Irish champion-of-champions clash.
It will be tougher much, much tougher the second time around, he said. The competition has the new home-and-away format with far more games and it will be a much harder tournament to win. But we want to keep that title. But it will also be a much fairer system with everyone playing all 11 of the other teams and there can be no excuses if things don t go as planned. With the tournament running throughout the World Cup and Six Nations Championship it is going to be difficult for everyone though obviously more difficult for some than others but Alan Gaffney and his coaching team have recruited some great new signings.
I think we will have better strength in depth than ever before. But I am hoping that Wellington don t go to well in the NPC! Christian Cullen is a great player with electric pace and real class and he will bring so much to the Munster squad when he joins us once his Wellington commitments are complete. I had a couple of Tests against the All Blacks in 2000 when Christian was in their side and he certainly gave the Wallabies a tough time.
Playing Leinster Lions on Friday promises to be a great appetiser for the rest of the tournament. We are the two teams who have won the Celtic League title and hopefully it will be a great game to launch the competition. Munster know just what it takes to win at Donnybrook but it is going to be extremely tough. I expect the five Welsh regional teams to be much sterner opposition, although it is always difficult bringing two sides together and getting the players to gell, though they will each have a far bigger spread of quality players.
Edinburgh have always been a tough nut to crack and I expect all three of the Scottish teams to be up there challenging.
CELTIC LEAGUE 2003 / 2004
Game Schedule - Friday, September 5th
19:35 Leinster Lions v Munster, Donnybrook (TG4) 19:05 N-S Ospreys v Ulster, The Gnoll (BBC W) 19:30 The Borders v Celtic Warriors, Netherdale 19:30 Glasgow Rugby v Cardiff Blues, Hughenden Saturday, 6 September
16:00 Connacht v Edinburgh Rugby, Sportsground 17:30 Llanelli Scarlets v Gwent Dragons, Stradey Park (S4C)