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Champions Assemble in Pool One

10th June 2009 By Munster Rugby

Champions Assemble in Pool One

The Magners League Champions, the recently crowned French Champions, the Challenge Cup Champions and the Champions of Italy all find themselves in Pool One of next season’s Heineken Cup.

The Magners League Champions, the recently crowned French Champions, the Challenge Cup Champions and the Champions of Italy all find themselves in Pool One of next season’s Heineken Cup.

USAP Perpignan, Northampton Saints and Benetton Treviso provide the opposition to Munster as they attempt to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup for an unsurpassed twelfth consecutive season. To do so they have to cope with three sides with a wealth of experience at European level and two sides, Northampton and Perpignan who have proven particularly painful thorns in Munster’s side in the past.

Speaking from Durban, Munster captain Paul O’Connell in describing the Pool as a ‘standard Munster draw’ said, "We generally draw the top teams. Perpignan the French champions have one of the biggest budgets in all of French rugby. Northampton Saints just won the Challenge Cup final, have invested heavily, signed a lot of players and its the first time we’ve had an Italian side in a long time and they’re the Italian champions. So yes, its a very tough draw. Typical of a Munster draw and as usual it’s going to be incredibly hard to come out of that group.

Munster haven’t played Northampton Saints since the 2000 final and defeat that day may be something the side can feed into when they meet? "That was along time ago," continues O’Connell, "but there are a few of the lads – Rog, Strings, Hayes, Wally – who started that day still around. But you bring everything you can to any game and I suppose that will be one of the things we’ll be bringing to it."

Munster have made the trip to Perpignan’s Stade Aime Giral on two occasions without success and although there was some measure of compensation with the 2006 quarter final win (19-10) at Lansdowne Road, the French side’s home record is, to say the least is fairly formidable, – they haven’t lost a Heineken Cup game there since Leicester Tigers beat them 31-30 in October 2001.

Munster haven’t drawn an Italian side in the Pool stage since season 03/04 and on that occasion it was Benetton Treviso. While they recorded a facile win in Thomond Park the return in Stadio Comunale di Monigo, on a cold January afternoon was closer than the final 31-20 scoreline suggests.

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