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It’s a Whole New Ball Game

6th January 2004 By Munster Rugby

It’s a Whole New Ball Game

Gloucester and Munster resume their red-hot Heineken Cup rivalry at Kingsholm on Saturday evening with both camps adamant their epic encounters last season are now history.

Gloucester and Munster resume their red-hot Heineken Cup rivalry at Kingsholm on Saturday evening with both camps adamant their epic encounters last season are now history.

Gloucester and Munster resume their red-hot Heineken Cup rivalry at Kingsholm on Saturday evening with both camps adamant their epic encounters last season are now history.

The Pool 5 showdown in front of the Sky Sports cameras captures all the intrigue and fascination of the cream of European competition but coaches Dean Ryan and Alan Gaffney are concentrating solely on the present.

"They gave us a good shellacking at Kingsholm and we did much the same to them at Thomond Park but those games are history," said Munster’s Gaffney.

"They are gone and we are giving no thought to them – we are starting afresh."

Gloucester coach Ryan declared: "Everyone around the periphery will be making a whole lot more of last season than we are. We are a different side from last year with more outgoings than incomings, plus the restructuring of the club."

Gloucester warmed up for the clash with a 28-18 victory at Leicester Tigers while Munster edged to a 3-0 win at Connacht.

"We were pleased with the decent weather and the fact that we were able to play a bit but this is a big, big month for us," said Ryan.

"This is only the third week that we have had everyone together as a squad so perhaps our preparations could have been better.

"But from the moment the Pools were announced everyone knew that these two matches were likely go a long way to dictating the way things would develop in Pool 5 and the back-to-back games with Munster represent huge challenges.

"The whole Heineken Cup concept is massive and we have the utmost respect for Munster, both from our personal experiences and for what they have achieved in Europe over the long term.

"It should be a cracking occasion. These are the sort of games with which you want to be involved and Gloucester against Munster is hard to rival."

Gaffney admits the three-point win at Connacht was "a wake-up call" and that "Gloucester are starting to get some form, I thought they were pretty impressive against Leicester Tigers at the weekend and this game is really building up.

"Gloucester are an extremely well-balanced side. I would say they have no obvious weaknesses – but naturally we hope to expose them in some areas.

"We have done a lot of work on them and they will have done a lot of work on us. We have got a pretty good idea of where they are coming from and they will have a pretty good idea where we are coming from.

"It certainly was a wake-up call against Connacht in the Celtic League. But we expected a dogfight, got a dogfight and that brought us back to reality.

"Most teams have been affected by international calls but perhaps not everyone is aware that we were without 13 of our leading players for the last three weeks. They were involved in two Irish training camps and also had a week break, only coming back to us last Thursday for a Friday game.

"That is how things fall but now we are focusing on Gloucester. It is going to be a very difficult exercise – but it should be a cracker."

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