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Munster to be without Thomond Park effect for quarter finals

By Ian Cameron
Munster will have to play in the Aviva Stadium in the quartre finals /PA

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Munster will be without their famous Thomond Park effect when they face Toulouse in their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final next month.

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The province are almost certainly set to play the champions in Dublin due to a scheduling clash with pop star Ed Sheeran, who is playing a series of gigs at Thomond Park on the weekend of the quarter-finals.

Sheeran was initially set to have just one gig in the home of the Munster Rugby but extended his stay with additional dates announced last year.

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That leaves the Aviva Stadium as the most likely option open to the men in red.

The last time Munster hosted a Heineken Champions Cup game in the capital, they were comfortably beaten by Saracens. The north Londoners swept aside the Irish side 26 – 10 in 2017 and would eventually go on to win the tournament.

It’s not so much that the game is being played in the Aviva, as much as it’s about not having the famous Thomond Park effect to drive the players on. Johan Van Graan’s men with have to make do without the 16th man, which has been credited time and time again with rallying the men in red when in European competition.

Just yesterday the Munster head coach praised the part the passionate home support played as they secured a 34-23 aggregate win over Exeter Chiefs.

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“We banked on the crowd and they were phenomenal today. We knew it was going to be a breakdown and a set-piece battle, that is why we went 6-2 again (in terms of the forwards-backs split on the bench).

“The starters did really well and I felt that the forwards that came on were massive, with some massive hits.

“Exeter keep the ball well and I felt we were extremely disciplined in terms of when to go for the breakdown. I’m very glad that we just came through, with plus-11 points over the two weekends.”

Even Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter acknowledged the unique nature of Munster in Thomond. “I thought Munster were where they needed to be and we weren’t. I think that is great credit to Munster and the crowd and the emotion they created together. I thought it was fantastic for them.”

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